August 23, 2018

Engine was replaced but the race ended up with no points

Series name: 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT SERIES Round 5
Round name: FUJI GT 500MILE RACE
Course: 4.563km × 177 laps (807.651km)
Qualifying: August 4 (Saturday) / Fine / Attendance: 22,100 (announcement from the organizer)
Race: August 5 (Sunday) / Fine / Attendance: 38,300 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh, Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 5 of the Super GT Series on August 4 and 5 at Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Prefecture). As the result of the previous race 5th place, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was assigned a weight handicap of additional 14kg, bringing the total vehicle weight to 1,050kg (1,034kg + 16kg).


August 4 (Sat)

Official practice: 5th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 00:1:31.233 / Daisuke Nakajima: 00:1:29.866

The official practice session began at 8:40 AM. It was Daisuke Nakajima who took the wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT first and entered the track. He took 6 laps steadily, and came back to the pit to adjust the car slightly and went back to the track again and recorded a time of 00:1:39:334 at 8th lap and moved up to 5th position.

Just after then the accident occurred on the track and the red flag appeared to suspend the session. After the session resumed, Hideki Mutoh took over Daisuke Nakajima and when he was about to go out of the pit, at the exit of the pit road #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT suddenly stopped and pit crews ran up to the car to push it back to the pit.

The reason behind was coolant leak. The team afraid there was a possibility that it also damaged the engine and decided to apply the second engine which the team was planning to use for the next race to the car, and took an action right away. In the end Hideki Mutoh took only 3 laps and recorded a time of 00:1:31:233.


Qualifying session: 12th place in the GT500 class (Q1: 12th place, 00:1:29.683 / Q2: DNS)

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.

15-minute Q1 session began at 2:55PM. Mechanics hurried to exchange the engine in time and Daisuke Nakajima took the wheel for the Q1 session. He tried a time attack while he felt good about condition of the car, however, his lap time was not really and he ended up with the session in 12th place and could not advance to the Q2 session.


August 5 (Sun)

Race: 14th place in the GT500 class (162 laps / 15 laps behind: / best time: 00:1:31.275)

The race day was sunny. It was Daisuke Nakajima who took the first wheel in the warming up session. But just after 2 laps he came back to the pit and Hideki Mutoh took over the car since he only took 3 laps on previous day. He took 11 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:31:281 putting him in the 3rd place.

The race was 500 miles (=approx. 808km) and the drivers were required to take 177 laps to complete the race. When the race started, it was 32℃ and road surface temperature reached 47℃. The first driver was Daisuke Nakajima. His started the race in 12th position but at the 1st lap he moved up to 11th, at the 3rd lap, 10th and at the 4th lap he was in 9th position.

Since the team suffered from tire wear at the same circuit here Fuji in back May, they made a decision to select a strategy to take additional one pit stop meaning short stint less gas. Drivers had to take 29 to 30 laps at each stint.


Though Daisuke Nakajima went well for a while, just before the 20th lap, he felt sudden tire wear and the team ordered him to take a pit stop at 22nd lap earlier than expected just in case. Hideki Mutoh got on a car after tire change and refueling. He appeared on the track in 15th position, and other cars started to take a pit stop and he moved up to 11th position at the 37th lap and came back to the pit after taking 50 laps.

Daisuke Nakajima then recorded the best lap time, 00:1:31.535 and moved up to 8th place at the 80th lap. And Hideki Mutoh took over the car. He tried to catch up the cars going in front and moved up to 8th positon. And then at the 115th lap Daisuke Nakajima had taken the wheel and took 146 laps putting him in 10th position. Then Hideki Mutoh in charge of 6th stint took over him. Since the team set a goal to get series points, though position went down due to the last pit stop, they still tried to finish the race within 10th place for the points.

Hideki Mutoh tried his best to catch up with the race on his shoulder the burden of team's expectations. But at 163th lap with 14 laps remaining just before the goal suddenly the warning lamp in the cockpit lit up and the engine lost power. He parked his car at the edge of the track and finished his race.

As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team did not receive any points, placing them 18th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN received 1 completion of the race point and was ranked down to 14th in the team point rankings, and got ready for the 6th round.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

I only took 3 laps on Saturday but had a good feeling on the car condition. But at the race presumably due to sudden rise in road surface temperature, the balance of the car changed. I believe that if the road surface temperature had been as cool as that of free sessions and the driving environment had been preferable to new tires, I could have shown the best performance. I also felt the sweet spot of our car was narrower than those of other teams’. In spite of such a technical condition, at the same time I feel it is getting competitive and hopefully we will see some kind of result soon. I am looking forward to the 6th race at Sugo.


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

Since in the free session on Saturday morning I could go well with new tires, and recorded the 5th fastest lap in the beginning of the session, I expected to compete in the qualifying and in fact I had good feelings on the car, however, the lap time was not really. Probably because road surface temperature rose acutely and other cars started to fin into track condition in the afternoon.

In the race I could compete with other cars and in fact moved up to better positions in the beginning, but at the 20th lap, all of the sudden the car lost performance, and I had no choice but to come back to the pit. The tires installed after such an accident were so stable that I could go as fast as other cars. But we adopted 6 stint strategy. We had to go faster than those cars. In the end due to a machine trouble, we could not get any points at all. I also regretted that the car did not go fast enough. The car and its tires are getting into good shape for sure. I would like to get a good result at the next race.


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

Though we prepared newly compounded tires this time, since we had to stop the official practice session in the middle of the session, we could not confirm their performance fully and had no choice but to try the official qualifying. At the qualifying despite we had good feelings on balance and condition of the car, the lap time was not good enough for us to advance to Q2. Regarding the race, our starting grid position was not good and we had faced a difficulty with tire wear issue in the 2nd race at the same circuit, Fuji, then we adopted a strategy, 5 stop (1 additional stop compared with other teams) and 6 stint.

But at the first stint rear tires lost grip dramatically and we had to take the car back to the pit earlier than we planned. Then we changed our strategy and adopted slightly more durable tires for the rest of the race. We tried to catch up the race to get some points at least, however, due to a trouble with fuel system the engine did not work well. In the end the car stopped and the race ended up. Though we could not get any points, we could feel some possibility in the car, we would like to get points at Sugo somehow. Please cheer us up.