, Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Mie prefecture, Japan


2011 SUPER GT Round 5 – Preview

Round 5 of SUPER GT, the “40th INTERNATIONAL Pokka GT SUMMER SPECIAL” will be held on August 20-21 at Suzuka Circuit, in Suzuka, Mie prefecture. This race marks the start of the second half of the eight-round season and features typically scorching heat with an event that’s double the regular distance at 500kms.

GT-Rs have made great starts to the season, taking two victories from the opening three rounds. The #46 S-Road MOLA GT-R, which took the second step of the podium at Sepang after a fierce battle for victory, rounded out the first half of the season perfectly with a commanding maiden GT500 win at Sportsland SUGO. The team now stands atop the driver’s standings. The #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, leading the championship until the last round, now sits third in the rankings and is aiming for a recovery in the points’ race at this round.

Handicap weight will be increased in proportion to championship points, however the circuit at Suzuka shouldn’t have as critical an effect as at the previous round at SUGO. This is related not only to the character of the circuit, but also the race distance. The longer distance allows teams to employ a wider range of strategy options including being able to adjust the length of a driver’s stint (the time from when he gets into the car to when he hands over to his teammate). Increasing the amount of time a car spends in the pits also increases the possibility of mistakes however; meaning this event will require even more diligent teamwork than usual.

For this round, the HSVs will be the cars to beat. They obstructed the GT-Rs from taking three victories in a row at Sepang. Suzuka is their home circuit, so their desire to win here will be stronger than ever. Of course it can be a double-edged sword as it’s like two sides of the same coin; wanting victory coupled with the pressure that they “must win at this circuit”.

The Lexus entries, which have been struggling to get a proper rhythm since the opening round, seem to have found their own strength since the official test at Suzuka in July. Also it’s fresh in the memory that the #39 DENSO SARD SC430 clinched the 2nd step of the podium as it demonstrated the start of its counterattack at the previous round at SUGO.

Last year, the Suzuka round was held in the middle of summer with a distance of 700kms and featured the only nighttime running of the season. This year, due to the impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the length of each round has been shortened and the nighttime running cancelled. Under this situation, a direct comparison with regular season activity may not make sense, however the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R finished in 2nd after overcoming its 46kg handicap weight here last year. Also, in 2008, the #12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R won the race – so it seems that GT-Rs are favourites at Suzuka in the heat of mid-summer. Depending on how well each team matches the circumstances will determine their overall performance at this most challenging of rounds.

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