October 13, 2017

Harsh weekend due to an unstable weather condition

Course: 4.554km × 66 laps (300.564km)
Qualifying: October 7 (Sat) / Rainy after cloudy / Attendance 15,881 (Announcement from the organizer)
Race: October 8 (Sun) / Fine occasionally rainy / Attendance 26,376 (Announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 7 of the Super GT Series on October 7 and 8 at Chang International Circuit (Thailand). TEAM MUGEN has not participated in the race held in Thailand since year 2014 when the team took part in the GT300 class race.


October 7 (Sat)

Official practice: 14th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 1:26.073 / Daisuke Nakajima: 1:25.151

It rained heavily intermittently from the morning. The course was fully wet. The official practice was delayed for 10 minutes and started at 10:10 AM. It was Daisuke Nakajima who took the wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT first. He just came into the course with the rain tires installed, but had to come back to the pit just after finishing 4 laps since something went wrong with a carbon brake rotor. And engineers started to fix it right away. The reason behind seemed that water on the surface of the course came into the rotor through the intake of the car.

It took only 30 minutes to fix the brake, and this time Hideki Mutoh took the wheel and the official practice of TEAM MUGEN resumed. By this time the driving lines on the course were almost dried up and water pools were recognized on only a few areas of the course. But the #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT could not go faster due to shortage of gripping power.


Hideki Mutoh shortened the time down to 1:26.073 and was positioned 7th. At 11:10AM the session was suspended temporally due to red flag. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT came back to the pit and the race resumed with the driver, Daisuke Nakajima, however, again he also faced a difficulty with the gripping power. While other vehicles were recording the better time as the course condition was getting better and better, his best time remained 1:25.151 and in the end he ended up the official practice with 14th position among 15 vehicles.


Qualifying session: 12th place in the GT500 class (Q1: 12th place, 1:31.574 / Q2: - )

The qualifying session was held under a 2-stage knockout formula with all 15 racing vehicles driving in Q1 and then the only the top 8 GT500 class vehicles advancing to Q2 where the starting grid was decided. The positions in the starting grid for the final race were decided in order of the Q2 times for the 8 vehicles that advanced to Q2, and in order of the Q1 times for the other vehicles. Q1 and Q2 must be driven by a different driver. One set of tires can be used for Q1, and another set for Q2.

In the morning the course was getting drier, however, in the afternoon the qualifying session was caught in a heavy downpour. By the time when the Q1 of GT300 started, the competition committee declared that the course conditions were wet. As the official qualifying of the GT300 proceeded, the course got drier, but it still rained on some area of the course, which was a sever condition for the participants.


When the Q1 session began, Daisuke Nakajima was assigned to enter the course with the rain tires installed. He tried the first time attack and recorded a time of 1:37.430 leaving him at the bottom.

TEAM MUGEN installed the second set of the rain tires with the vehicle and let Daisuke Nakajima try the second time attack when in the 4 minutes left before the end of the session. Daisuke Nakajima with the warmed up tires recorded a time of 1:31:670 and was positioned in 10th. He tried furthermore and could shorten his time down to 1:31.574, however, other vehicles recorded better time and in the end Daisuke Nakajima ended up the session in the 12th place and could not advance to Q2.


October 8 (Sun)

Race: 13h place in the class (65 laps 1 lap behind / best time: 1:26.952)

The race day began with bright and clear morning. The course was in the dry condition. By the time when each vehicle finished the warm-up session and lined up at the starting grid, the ambient temperature went up to 30℃.and the road surface temperature was 45℃, but the time of ceremonies went by and when in 30 minutes left before the race started, it started to rain suddenly and the course got wet in a moment.


Each team was forced to consider some strategies somehow for such an environmental change and TEAM MUGEN decided to install the rain tires with #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT. Considering feeling of the vehicle in a previous day and climate change, TEAM MUGEN assumed that they need to change the tires to slick ones in the first half of the race before the driver’s change. That means they have to carry out pit stop twice.

The race started with the safety car going ahead. The rain stopped, but when the vehicles went by, they splashed the water on the course. After 2 laps, the race began. Hideki Mutoh overtook some vehicles in front and at the third lap he moved up to the 10th position.


At the 5th lap some teams started to change the rain tires to the slick tires and make pit stop. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT continued to run with the rain tires installed, and moved up to apparent 8th position and came back to the pit at the 14th lap. After installing the slick tires, Hideki Mutoh again got on a vehicle and went back to the course.

TEAM MUGEN was planning to pick up the pace, however, Hideki Mutoh had a difficulty to warm up the tires due to low gripping power caused by shortage of inner pressure of the tires. Under the condition that the driving line got dry, he lost his position down to 12th. Hideki Mutoh after finishing 26 laps, at the 40th lap, he took a pit stop.


Here #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was fueled and Daisuke Nakajima took the wheel. New slick tires were installed with high inner pressure based on the advice of Hideki Mutoh. When Daisuke Nakajima came back to the course, apparent position of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was 13th. Daisuke Nakajima started to pick up the pace, but still not fast enough to overtake the competitors and finished the race with 13th place with 1 lap behind in the end.

As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team received no points, placing them the same 18th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN received 2 points for completing the race and remains 15th place in the team point rankings in the lead up to the final round at Twinring Motegi.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

Due to shortage of gripping power, we could not maximize performance of the vehicle. It was tough weekend. At the qualifying in wet road condition, we expected the new tires to work well, but because of degradation, they did not and in the end could not advance to Q2. At the race since it started to rain, we wondered if we should choose other strategy, but slick tires changed from wet ones did not have enough inner pressure and we could not pick up the pace. When Daisuke Nakajima took over Hideki Mutoh, we adjusted the inner pressure. When the vehicle was filled with full of gas, the drivers felt understeer and after consuming some amount of gas, they started to catch up pace. This was a disappointing result for the people who cheered us up. We will do our best to figure out the issue, and analyze and improve it toward the final round. Also I believe we need a big challenge somehow.


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

I am kind of disappointed at the result of this race since I felt I could do better. Nothing big issue, but accumulation of small issues does harm to our race, I presume. At the race I could have caught up with the vehicles going in front, but due to low inner pressure of the slick tires, I could not go faster but rather lost speed. I felt like learning that we have to check each such a small issue and fix them. Since we still have enough time for the final round, we, TEAM MUGEN come together and do our best to improve current situation.


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

Harsh weekend. Since I usually get good result at the race in Thailand, I was expecting for this race. Qualifying under the rain was so tough to me. At the race surely the weather got better, but due to low gripping power, I also faced a difficulty, I did my best, though. But weather condition was the same to all the participants, this would be just an excuse. The current situation is quite sever, however, since we still have some time, we will cooperate to get ready for the next race.