The 2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 3 “MOTEGI GT 250km RACE” was held on November 12 at the Motegi Twin Ring (lap = 4801.379 m x 53 laps) in Tochigi Prefecture. This race was held on the Saturday of the scheduled last round of the season (Round 8) in order to make up for the 3rd Round originally scheduled to be run at Autopolis circuit in May but cancelled due to the effects of the Kumamoto Earthquakes. As a result, the replacement Round 3 qualifying and race were both run on Saturday and the qualifying and race for Round 8 (final round of the season) are both to be run on Sunday. This was the first case of such scheduling in SUPER GT history.
In the GT500 class Round 3 race, the winner for the second time this season was the Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/Masataka Yanagida), while in the GT300 class the winner for the team’s first time was the No. 21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (Richard Lyons/Tomonobu Fujii).
This day, the qualifying was run from 9:00 in the morning in difficult conditions due to a wet and slippery track from the previous night’s rain, and in the GT500 class, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F driven by former F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen won pole position for the first time in SUPER GT competition. For the two qualifying sessions, one each for the Round 3 race and the Round 8 race, the teams were to have one of their two drivers each compete in one or the other of the two qualifying sessions.
In the afternoon’s Round 3 race, it was the pole-sitting No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F (Kohei Hirate) that got a good start to lead throughout the first half of the race despite the interruption of a Safety Car intervention due to c crash by a GT300 class car in the early going. Behind No. 39, the 2nd-position grid starter, the No. 24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R (Daiki Sasaki) maintained a firm hold on 2nd place without falling far behind the leader.
The Manager of the No. 24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R team, Masahiko Kondo, stuck with a strategy of extending the first stint and then going without a tire change in the routine pit stop to gain time. This strategy enabled the No. 24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R to take the lead in the second half of the race with Masataka Yanagida at the wheel. But now Yanagida was pursued hotly by former F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen in the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F. With two laps remaining in the race, Kovalainen settled in on Yanagida’s tail and then pulled up alongside him time and again in his Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R. But, the two-time GT500 class champion Yanagida managed to hold off Kovalainen at the goal line to take the checkers first and win the race. This gave the No. 24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R its second victory of the season, following a win in Round 4.
In the series title race, this result put the 2nd-place finishing No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F driver pair of Kovalainen and Hirate at the top of the ranking for the Drivers Championship with a 3-point lead over the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driver pair of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli and a 7-point lead over the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F pair of Kazuya Oshima and Andrea Caldarelli. They will battle it out with five other teams for the title in tomorrow’s final round.
In the GT300 class, the pole position was won by Bjorn Wirdheim in the No. 11 GAINER TANAX AMG GT3. However, in the race it was the 2nd-place grid starting No. 21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (Richard Lyons) that took advantage of pit-stop timing to take the lead. After that, second stint driver Tomonobu Fujii held on to take the win. For the team and for Lyons, it was their first win in the GT300 class. Lyons is, however, a veteran who has also won a GT500 championship title.
In the title race, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC driver pair of Takeshi Tsuchiya and Takamitsu Matsui held their lead in the series ranking by finishing 7th in this race. They hold a 9-point lead over the No. 3 B-MAX NDDP GT-R pair of Kazuki Hoshino and Jann Mardenborough, with five other teams also vying for the title in the final round tomorrow.
No.24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R
From the outset I had in mind the strategy of running the whole race without a tire change. So, I was thinking that I could follow the two lead machines skillfully without pushing too hard, it would make things easier for us in the second half of the race. I tried to save the tires as much as possible, but it still turned out that I left Yanagida-san with a lot of hard work in the final stages of the race. I am happy that we won today, but there is still another qualifying and race waiting for us tomorrow, so I am going to try to clear my mind to be ready for that challenge.
I was being chased hard in the late laps of the race and I hear that things were really tense for everyone in our pit, and to tell the truth, I was really tense out their too! We won today but I can’t feel really ecstatic about it yet. I want to save that for when we win tomorrow and everything is over. The biggest reason for today’s win has to be the fact that we got a front-row spot on the grid. What is our strategy for tomorrow? I’ll leave it to you to imagine.
No.21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS
I am grateful to everyone [for this win], of course to my teammate [Tomonobu Fujii] and to the team and WRT (technical support), to Audi Japan and everyone involved with the team. The pre-race warm-up was the first time in the race weekend that we were able to run on dry-use tires, so were really going just with what we had concerning the set-up, but Dunlop has a record of success in the final round at Motegi and I think the good tires they prepared for us this time was the deciding factor in our win today.
This is the third year since I came to this team and started driving Audi machines, and until last year, even though we would get and podium finish about once a year, we were still far from winning races. This year, the machine is better and we came close to winning at Fuji in the summer. It was really disappointing to miss winning that race by 1/10th of a second, and there were a number of equally disappointing races after that, but this time we finally won. So, I’m half happy and half simply relieved to get this result. With today’s win we have a chance to go for the title tomorrow, but I am going to go into the race tomorrow with do-or-die determination.
Source. Super GT