September 24, 2018

4th place, but about to stand on the podium

Series name: 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round6
Round name: SUGO GT 300KM RACE
Course: 3.737km × 81 laps (302.697km)
Qualifying: September 15 (Saturday) / Cloudy and occasional rain / Attendance: 12,900 (announcement from the organizer)
Race: September 16 (Sunday) / Fine / Attendance: 28,500 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh, Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 6 of the Super GT Series on September 15 and 16 at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi Prefecture).Though #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT did not gain any points at previous race, Rd.5 Fuji, after the race GTA reviewed performance of NSX GTs and made a decision to apply performance adjustment additional 10kg weight handicaps for all the NSX GTs. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT competed in this race with total weight, 1,060kg (1,034kg + 14kg: accumulated weight handicaps + 10kg). TEAM MUGEN tested new spec tires at the occasion of the joint tire test at AUTOPOLIS in the end of August and had good impressions on them and decided to use them for this race.


September 15 (Sat)

Official practice: 8th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 00:1:12.826 / Daisuke Nakajima: 00:1:14.002

The official practice began under cloudy sky at 9:00AM and the track condition was announced to be WET. It did not start to rain yet and track condition was DRY, but rain tires can be acceptable for this unstable weather condition. It was Hideki Mutoh who took the wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT first and took some laps.


The weather was getting worse and worse, and eventually it started to drizzle. Under such a weather condition Hideki Mutoh continued to take laps and at 10th lap he recorded a time of 00:01:12.826 and joined the middle group. The session was suspended twice but continued.

At the latter half of the session Daisuke Nakajima took over Hideki Mutoh. By then due to heavy rain the surface of the track was totally wet and the car splashed water. It was totally 24 laps that Hideki Mutoh took and 14 laps Daisuke Nakajima did. The best time was 00:01:12.826 which Daisuke Nakajima recorded and the starting grid was determined to be 8th among 15 cars.


Qualifying session: 5th place in the GT500 class (Q1: 6th place, 00:1:11.474 / Q2: 5th place, 00:01:10.803)

The qualifying session began at 2:00PM. Though as usual the session was held under a 2-stage knockout formula with all 15 cars driving in Q1 and then only the top 8 GT500 class cars could advance to Q2 where the starting grid would be determined, due to the irregular time schedule, each session lasted for only 10 minutes, shorter than usual session time.

The rain from the morning stopped by the time when the qualifying started, the track surfaces almost dried out. Daisuke Nakajima in charge of Q1 entered the track from the behind and took time to warm up tires. But soon the accident happened on the track and the session was suspended by a red flag. Since he had not tried a time attack yet, he was at that moment in the last position, 15th.


The session resumed with 2 minutes and 45 seconds remaining. The moment Daisuke Nakajima entered the track, he started warming-up. Only one lap was left for him, quite sever situation, but he recorded a time of 00:01:11.474 and moved up to 6th place and could advance to Q2.

By the time when Hideki Mutoh entered the track at Q2, the sun beat down on the track. He tried a time attack and recorded a time of 00:01:10.803 and was assigned starting grid position 5th.


September 16 (Sun)

Race: 4th place in the GT500 class (81 laps / 01:52:10.458 / best time: 00:01:14.209)

Weather on the race day, Sunday was quite good. Just before the race started Hideki Mutoh took 12 warming-up laps and recorded the best time 00:01:13.249 and then got ready for the race. The ambient temperature rose to 26℃ and track surface temperature did to 37℃ and continued to rise up by 2:00PM when the race began. Temperature was expected to be higher than the team forecasted.


Hideki Mutoh started his race in 5th position. In the beginning though he was almost caught up with cars behind, he overtook #17 at 5th lap and moved up to 4th position. He kept the same position and took laps for a while. But after 20th lap the tires started to wear out and the car also started to slow down. The team let Hideki Mutoh come back to the pit earlier than scheduled, and changed the tires into new spec ones which the team was planning to use in the latter half of the race. After tire change and refueling, Daisuke Nakajima took over the car.


Apparent position of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT went down to 10th. But then other cars came back to the pit one after another and #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT moved up to 9th position at 35th lap, 8th at 36th lap, 6th at 37th lap, and 5th at 47th lap. Even at the end of the race, Daisuke Nakajima kept his pace and when the safety car entered the track due to an accident on the track, he almost caught up with the #38 going in 4th position. As soon as the race restarted, at 76th lap Daisuke Nakajima tried to overtake the #38.

But he went too much and could not overtake the #38. Then again at the last corner of 77th lap he ran down the ramp and moved up to 4th position, and was coming closer and closer to #12 But at the 4th corner of 77th lap #1 went out of track and at the last corner of 80th lap #64 did the same and a yellow flags were raised. Daisuke Nakajima could not find a chance to try overtaking and ended the race.


As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team received 8 points, placing them 14th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN received 3 completion of the race point at the same lap of the top car along with 8 points and was ranked up to 13th in the team point rankings, and got ready for the 7th round at AUTOPOLIS held from October 20 – 21.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

We wanted Hideki Mutoh to go further at the first stint, however, track surface temperature went up so rapidly that we had no choice but to ask him to take a pit stop. That meant a stint of Daisuke Nakajima would be longer but we had a confidence in the new tires.


One issue to be solved remained that we could not go faster for one to two laps after pit-out. But we could catch up the pace after then, though. At the end of the race a safety car entered the track and we found a chance to move up and in fact we did. Though we could move up to 4th place, if one more lap had been left, we could have stood on the podium. But anyway,,, truly I am so regrettable not to have been able to stand on the podium, however, I am also satisfied with the race in which we could show our real performance through our team work. I have become confident in what we have been doing in previous races. We will do our best in AUTOPOLIS.


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

I believe in this race we could show the best performance of each team members. Our strategies also worked quite well. So I am very satisfied with the result. Since in the race I chose the softer tires used in the qualifying, I could go well for the first half of the race, however, after that the tires were worn out and I took a pit stop earlier than we had planned.


I could not move up a lot but at least I did everything I could do then. New spec tires prepared by Yokoyama seemed to work well for Daisuke Nakajima perfectly. Though we cannot get the benefits of weight handicap at AUTOPOLIS, I am sure TEAM MUGEN has been advancing and in the next race AUTOPOLIS will reveal our real ability among all the teams.


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

I expected to move up more, but the competitors went faster than I expected. In the race due to earlier pit stop I had to go very longer but I could go through my stint quite stably. If I have to point out anything to regret, my initial pace was not fast enough. I am sure I could go most stably at the latter half of the race today in the past two year.


But since I expected to stand on the podium, I feel so regrettable about the result. At 76th lap my impatience to overtake other cars even with taking risks made me go too much. After that I could overtake one car, but at the end of the race due to many yellow flags I could not go further. But I am satisfied with the car and tires whose specs were figured out by efforts of all the members through previous races. I would like to keep this feeling and win the next race and the race after next. Since at AUTOPOLIS the car easily picks up tire debris, I have to drive so carefully and I will do my best.