The OKAYAMA GT 300 Km RACE, opening round of the 2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km x 82 laps), in Okayama Pref. on April 10th. In the GT500 race, the reigning champions of the last two seasons, No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda / Ronnie Quintarelli) came from behind after a starting from 3rd position on the grid to take a stunning and hard-earned victory. In the GT300 class, the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG-GT (Hiroki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou) got their team’s first victory in this class.
Race day brought a thin overcast of cloud with not fear of rain to Okayama International Circuit. With the air temperature at 20 degrees Celsius it was very comfortable weather for the 19,000 spectators who turned out to watch the opening round of the 2016 season kick off at the afternoon’s 2:40 start with two motorcycles of the Okayama Prefectural Police leading the parade lap in an appeal for traffic safety. After the parade lap and one formation
lap, the 82-lap race got underway. Starting from the GT500 class’ pole position, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F driven by James Rossiter took and held the lead without mishap, followed by the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F (Andrea Carderelli), the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) and the No. 46 S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama). As the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F tried to pull away in the lead the reigning champion No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R fiercely gave chase. After passing the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F to move into 2nd position, Quintarelli in car No. 1 steadily closed the gap on the leader. Perhaps because of this pressure, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F opted for an early pit stop to place its faith in a strong second stint. With this move, the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, now in the lead, made a determined sprint to consolidate its position in front. What’s more, the NISMO team’s fast pit work put the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT- R and its second-stint driver Tsugio Matsuda back in the race with a lead of nearly 9 seconds over 2nd place. After that, the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R ran alone at the front to win the first race of the 2016 season by a commanding 15-second margin over 2nd place. It was an auspicious start for the team that will be seeking its third consecutive GT500 class title this season. This win also made Tsugio Matsuda sole holder of the record for most GT500 class career wins,
with 17. Meanwhile, the battle for 2nd was a fierce contest between a Lexus RC F and another Nissan GT-R that lasted for the final ten laps of the race. In it, Ryo Hirakawa in the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F managed to hold of a blistering charge from the GT500 rookie Katsumasa Chiyo in the No. 46 S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R to finish 2nd
and prevent a sweep of the top two places by Nissan GT-Rs.
In the GT300 class, the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG-GT (Hiroki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou) caught and passed the pole-starting No. 25 ViVaC 86MC (Takeshi Tsuchiya / Takamitsu Matsui) early in the race. From there, they ran on unchallenged to bring the team and Gamou their first GT300 win ever. It was also the debut win for theMercedes AMG GT3.
No.1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R [GT500]
Tsugio Matsuda: “In the [pre-season] tests at Okayama we were not getting good times, and we had a lot of our fans asking if this year’s car No. 1 was OK. In the qualifying, I managed to get us to Q2 and, there, Ronnie [Quintarelli] got us a place near the front of the grid. In today’s race as well, Ronnie did a great job to move us up to the front and I thought it was going to be another battle (like last year) of me against [Ryo] Hirakawa, but our pit work was so fast that it gave me a big lead. It was really a great flow thatgave us the victory.”
Ronnie Quintarelli: “I still can’t believe that we won. The [pre-season] tests went so badly but the team was able to get the car set up so well this weekend and the Michelin tires performed very well. Unlike in the tests, the machine’s balance was truly great. The team had been saying that we were really in trouble if something didn’t change but they worked hard to give us a really good machine, and now I am relieved that I was able to do my part to live up to their efforts. When I qualified 3rd yesterday, some people were saying it was too bad we didn’t get pole position, but for us [considering how badly the pre-season tests had gone] 3rd position felt quite good, and I believe it was that 3rd position in qualifying that gave us the chance to win today.”
No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG-GT [GT300]
Haruki Kurosawa: “This is our third season as the LEON Racing team and we have finally been able to reach this point. As is often the case with a new car, there have been our share of small problems and the need for fine adjustments in the settings, but the mechanicshave all been working almost day and night to get the car set up well for us. In the qualifying, although we missed getting pole position, [Naoya] Gamou ran well to get us 2nd position on the grid. In the first half of the race it was hard to catch up with car No. 25. So, we decided to make an early pit stop and were able to get the lead through that. This was truly a victory won by the whole team.”
Naoya Gamou: “I am really grateful to the team that has given me the chance to drive such a wonderful machine and to Haruki [Kurosawa]-san. So I am honestly very relieved to have been able to pay them all back with this result. I was also satisfied with the way I was able to run in the qualifying. In the race, although the timing was a bit earlier than expected, I planned to stick with our strategy of just changing the two left-side tires and drive while nursing the other two along. But as it turned out, car No. 25 wasn’t able to pick up the pace, perhaps because it was hard to warm up their tires, and we were able to get the lead rather easily. From here on I want to do well in each race so that we can stay in the race for the season title.”
Source. Super GT