July 04, 2018

Pole position at qualifying and points at race

Series name: 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT SERIES Round 4
Round name: 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round4 Chang SUPER GT RACE
Course: 4.554 km × 66 laps (300.564 km)
Qualifying: June 30 (Saturday) / Fine after cloudy / Attendance: 9,417 (announcement from the organizer)
Race: July 1 (Sunday) / Fine / Attendance: 20,219 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh, Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 4 of the Super GT Series on June 30 and July 1 at Chang International Circuit (Thailand). This is the second race in Thailand following the Thai round last year.


June 30 (Sat)

Official practice: 4th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 00:1:23.654

The practice session began in the heat of sun from the morning. The air temperature increased to 33℃ and road surface temperature did to 44℃.

It was Hideki Mutoh who took a wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT first and entered the track. In the beginning the condition of the road surface was not good, however, suddenly got better. Hideki Mutoh picked up the pace and recorded the best time of 00:01:23.654 at the 10th lap. During two-hour session Hideki Mutoh drove on the first half of the track and Daisuke Nakajima did that of the last half.

TEAM MUGEN could confirm the basic speed through performance of the two drivers and put a priority on determining how to keep the tire performance. In the end Hideki Mutoh finished the session on a good note in 4th place. His time was much better than the team expected.


Qualifying session: 1st place in the GT500 class (Q1: 4th place, 00:1:28.405 / Q2: 1st place, 00:1:23.341)

The qualifying session is held under a 2-stage knockout formula with all 15 cars driving in Q1 and then only the top 8 GT500 class cars can advance to Q2 where the starting grid is determined. The positions in the starting grid for the final race were determined in order of the Q2 lap times for the 8 vehicles that could advance to Q2, and in order of the Q1 times for the other cars. Q1 and Q2 must be raced by different drivers, and one set of tires can be used for Q1 and another for Q2.

It was fine in the morning, but in the afternoon the black clouds appeared, and just before the qualifying session began, the track was caught in a squall with lightning. Due to such a condition, the qualifying session which was scheduled to start at 3:00PM, was delayed for 15 mins.

The Q1 session of the GT500 class was held for 15 mints from 3:35PM. The road surface was wet but the rain partially stopped and because of hot temperature, the track was getting dried. It was Daisuke Nakajima who took a wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT and tried rain tires first, however, did not feel good with them. The team decided to change the tires considering the tack condition. Daisuke Nakajima then took a pit stop and again went back to the track with new dry tires.

At this moment the time was one of the slowest. Daisuke Nakajima hurried to warm up the dry tires despite the tack condition was still wet, and tried a time attack and recorded a time of 00:01:31.711 putting him in 2nd position. He further tried time attacks and recorded a time of 00:01:29.628 and placed himself in the top position. Other cars also tried time attacks and in the end Daisuke Nakajima advanced to Q2 with a time of 00:01:28.405 in 4th place.

The condition of the 10-min Q2 session starting from 4:20PM was quite difficult one because the road surface was partially dried and partially wet. Hideki Mutoh who was in charge of Q2 waited just before the session ended and tried a time attack, and recorded the fastest time, 00:01:23.204 and got a pole position. This was very first time for TEAM MUGEN to get a pole position since their participation in GT500 class from the last year.


July 1 (Sun)

Race: 5th place in the GT500 class (66 laps: 00:1:37:25.638 / best time: 00:1:25.526)

It was Sunny from the morning and the track was dry on the race day. By the time when each car finished warm-up drive and lined up on the staring grid, the air temperature was 33.1℃ and that of the road surface was 43.5℃.

Hideki Mutoh was assigned to take a wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT and the race started at 3:03PM after the formation lap beginning at 3:00PM. Remaining the top position, Hideki Mutoh started out, but #39 was following him approx. 2 seconds behind. He could not leave #39 behind but kept going.

Just before the 20th lap such a time gap was shortened and #39 was almost catching up Hideki Mutoh. To overtake GT300s 1 lap behind, Hideki Mutoh had no choice but to go out of the track line. In fact he did and picked up some tire debris. Then #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT became unable to pick the pace.

Hideki Mutoh tried his best to keep the top and waited for recovery of the tires. But when he tried to overtake a GT300, #39 overtook him instead and Hideki Mutoh lost one position down to 2nd.Furthermore #6 came close to #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT. At 27th lap he was overtaken and his position went down to the 3rd. The tires were about to be worn out by then.

Hideki Mutoh was ordered to come back to the pit at 29th lap earlier than the team was planning, and the team changed a set of tires, refueled the car, and Daisuke Nakajima took over the car. Regrettably something wrong happened to a part of the car and the team spent some extra time fixing the part and Daisuke Nakajima left the pit late.

When Daisuke Nakajima came back to the track, his apparent position went down to 11th, but there still went on the track the car having not taken a pit stop yet, and Daisuke Nakajima tried to catch up them and his position went up to 9th at 35th lap, 7th at 37th lap, and 6th at 42nd lap.

But at 44th lap when the position of Daisuke Nakajima went up to 5th, such catch-ups stopped. Since Daisuke Nakajima spent much time coping with the trouble at a pit stop, there were about 26 seconds time gap between #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT and #19 going in front of him. Rather #38 was catching up him, and Daisuke Nakajima had to concentrate on protecting himself from it.

Daisuke Nakajima tried to avoid attack of the #38 0.5 second behind as much as possible, but 3 laps before the end of the race, at 64th lap he was overtaken and went down to 6th position. In the end since #36 going in 2nd position stopped on the middle of the track due to fuel shortage, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ended up the race in 5th place.

As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team received 7 points, placing them 16th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN received 9 points including 3 completions of the race points and was ranked up to 13th in the team point rankings.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

I am satisfied with the result of the qualifying. Both two drivers did a good job. In the beginning of the race, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT kept stable time and took a lead, but other competitors were all so fast. When Hideki Mutoh tried to overtake a GT300 going 1 lap behind, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT picked up tire debris and slowed down and his position went down to 3rd. Not only that but when the car was taking a pit stop, some trouble happened to door area of the car and wasted some time.

I feel so sorry for the drivers.After the tires changed, Daisuke Nakajima tried to rush as hard as possible. I was concerned if the tires could go without any problems, but (in reality) 5 laps before the end of the race remained, the car started to lose the tire grip and was overtaken. Daisuke Nakajima did his very best, though. I am confident that we tried everything we could do and could collect precious information this weekend. Engineers and mechanics also did great jobs. Because of the reasons above, we could get a good result. At the same time we thank you very much for the fans, sponsors, and all the related people. We try our best and get on the podium before the summer season will be gone.


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

I was able to get a pole position at the qualifying and also showed potential of the speed of the car this weekend. It has been a long since I got a pole position last time (since the round 6 in 2016) so then I am so happy. When the Q2 stared, the road surface was still wet, but since Yokohama provided us with good tires, I could try best on time attacks without any fear. Though the race was competitive because other cars ran so fast, I believe we could maximize all our potentials.

I tried my best at full strength from the starting point of the race. When I tried to overtake a GT300, I picked up the tire debris, and the track characteristics were ideal for competitors, then in the end I lost some positions. When I was told to come back to the pit, the car suddenly lost grip. That was a limitation. But I could bring out all the performance of the car and find some clues for the rest of the races. I am also confident that we have become much stronger and will be able to cope with the qualifying from now on. The next target is how we will deal with the race.


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

I am satisfied with the qualifying since at the qualifying we could accomplish some targets from previous year. I did feel that our competitors at the race so strong. Since we had some trouble at pit stop and we lost some time, I had to restart the race at the position which I did not expect at all, however, I could overtake two cars. I did my best to avoid #38’s overtaking me, but could not make it in the end. So pity. But at least I did all my best at this race.

I try to accept the result at this race under the reason which is our competitors ran too fast, and I am ready for the rest of the races. The tires we selected this weekend were ones which we could not last year. Last year we, drivers could not afford to think of others but our driving. But this year with help of accumulated know-hows toward characteristics of tires, I feel we can compete in the race considering (potential of) the competitors.