The qualifying for the Chang SUPER GT RACE, Round 4 of the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place on June 30 at the Chang International Circuit (one lap 4,554m) in Buriram, Thailand. The GT500 class pole position winner was the No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT driven by Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima with a course record of 1’23.341 in difficult conditions after the rain. In the GT300 class, the class PP went to the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG driven by Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou. With this, these two cars will start from the front position on their respective class starting grids.
Held last season as the 7th round of the series in October, this year the Thai round is held on June 30 and July 1 as the 4th round of the series. This is a season of frequent rains in Thailand and it means that the teams have a constant eye out for changes in the weather. The official qualifying was held in the same two-stage knock- out style as usual that sees the teams narrowed down from the Q1 to the Q2 sessions.
It was clear skies over the Chang International Circuit in the morning, but around noon dark clouds swept in bringing tropical squalls raining down on the track. This caused the start of the Q1 qualifying sessions to be delayed by 15 minutes.
The GT500 class’ 15-minute Q1 session began at 15:35. Although the rain had all but stopped, the track was still wet, but with the air temperature near 30-degrees C., the track began to dry off quickly when the action started. In these conditions, Daiki Sasaki in the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R recorded the fastest time of 1’27.015. In contrast, after finishing fastest in the morning practice, the No. 3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama) only managed to come in 9th and thus failed to move on to Q2, as did last year’s champion team and winners at this race, the No. 1 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa), by finishing Q1 in 10th position.
By the time the 10-minute GT500 class Q2 session began at 16:20, the track was already dry, making the conditions completely different from Q1. However, with the edges of the track still wet, the conditions remained difficult. Nonetheless, Koudai Tsukakoshi in the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT, who is consistently strong in wet track conditions, managed to run a time of 1’23.458 to beat the former course record of 1’24.307 by a big margin and move to the top of the time board. No other car was able to match this time before the checkered flag
signaled the last lap of the session. However, on that last lap Hideki Mutoh in the No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ran a time of 1’23.204 to take the top position by 0.117 sec. For Mutoh, this was his second GT500 class pole position. And it was the first PP since TEAM MUGEN made its comeback to the GT500 class last year.
In the GT300 class Q1 session, when the rain was still falling, the wild-card entry for this one round, the No. 32 est cola by AAS Motorsport (Kantadhee Kusiri) showed his home track advent by running the fastest time. But by the time the track was nearly dry in the Q2 session, the No. 88 MANEPA LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Andrea Caldarelli) and the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG (Naoya Gamou) both ran identical times of 1’32.554. But, in the post qualifying technical inspection, a violation was found in car No. 88 and the pole position went to car No. 65.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT [GT500]
Hideki Mutoh: “It has been a long time since our last pole position (Round 6 of the 2016 season) so I am really happy. The conditions were very tough in Q1, but Daisuke (Nakajima) did a great job to get us into Q2. When I started driving (in Q2) the track still wasn’t completely dry, but Yokohama had prepared some very good tires for us, so I was able to go all out on my time attacks with no worries. The team also did a great job of setting up the car, so it really felt great.”
No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG [GT300]
Naoya Gamou: “I am very happy to have gotten this pole position. This time, the performance of the car was just fabulous from the beginning of our runs. Especially, the tires that Bridgestone prepared for us were just wonderful, and the grip felt good and stable throughout our long practice run. I ran 10 laps in the qualifying and the fact that I got my best time on the last lap was further proof. We don’t know what the conditions will be like in the race tomorrow, but since we have run strongly in both wet and dry conditions today, I hope we can run from pole position to the win.”
Source. Super GT