, Sportsland SUGO, Sendai, Japan


2011 SUPER GT Round 4 – Preview

Round 4 of the 2011 SUPER GT series, the SUGO GT 250km Race will be held on July 30-31 at Sportsland SUGO, located on the outskirts of Sendai, the principal city in Japan’s northeast. Coming on the back of the series’ only overseas visit at Sepang (Malaysia) in June, the season now heads into its mid-stage, giving teams some concern about success ballast.

The GT-R runners, who started the season with the aim of re-taking the title, witnessed victory for the factory-backed #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R in the season-opener at Fuji Speedway amid torrential rain. This was followed by another win for the GT-R at the second race of the season, held at Okayama International Circuit, but on this occasion it was the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R who took the spoils after a fierce battle in the dry. All in all, an ideal start to the season for Nissan. Round 3 was run at Sepang, just outside the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. In this race, it was the #46 S Road MOLA GT-R that very nearly dominated the weekend, taking the 2nd step of the podium after an unrelenting fight in the tropical heat. Another of the Nissans, the #24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R machine, put in a strong performance from a mid-field starting position to finish just off the podium in 4th place. The results thus far mean that all four GT-Rs contesting this season’s SUPER GT have finished within the top ten at one time or another, proving the strength of the GT-R after the early season races.

However, one of the stipulations for finishing high up the order in races in this series is the subsequent success ballast, which, depending on the result can be extremely heavy. Three rounds in, the #23 GT-R has 52kgs’ weight handicap onboard, the #46 42kgs, the #12 40kgs and the #24 car – the lightest among the quartet – with 28 kilos. With the hilly characteristics of Sportsland SUGO, handicap weights will play an even more crucial role than at other circuits, and will require car set-ups to be less influenced by the car’s overall weight. In addition, the strategy adopted by the #23 machine since the Okayama round, that of setting the car up for the race in the official practice sessions rather than in qualifying and then coming from further back in the race after a steady drive, has been deemed more effective at taking a strong position at the flag.

Of course, all of their rivals are aiming to beat the GT-Rs. For Honda, Sportsland SUGO is a track well matched to their car’s characteristics, including superior cornering capabilities carried over from the NSX. Even last season, the HSV took a 1-2 on its debut at SUGO. Among the Honda runners, several including the #8 ARTA HSV have only around 10kgs’ success ballast onboard, meaning they’ll all be cars to watch. Obviously the Lexus entries will also be pushing hard to score points, particularly the #19 WedsSport SC430 and the #39 DENSO SARD SC430, both of which have only a smattering of ballast in their cars. In addition, the #19 Lexus and #24 GT-R both run on the same rubber from Michelin, while the #39 SC430 and #46 GT-R are similarly on identical tyres from Yokohama.

In last year’s SUGO round, Motoyama and Treluyer in the #23 GT-R started from pole and made a quick getaway at the start. The car ran faultlessly throughout until later on when almost inexplicably, the engine quit with just a handful of laps remaining. Somehow Motoyama got the car restarted and they went on to finish sixth, though it was a bitter result after their earlier supremacy. This time out the drivers and entire team will be extra motivated to avenge last year’s disappointment.

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