Both KC Motorgroup Ltd. (KCMG) Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 cars showed promising pace in the Dubai 24 Hour and would have been in podium contention, were it not for a number of unfortunate issues.
After a strong qualifying performance by Joshua Burdon, the #35 Nissan of Katsumasa Chiyo, Tsugio Matsuda, Burdon, Shaun Thong and Andrea Gagliardini lined up 14th on the grid, with Matsuda taking the wheel for the start.
Despite dropping back initially, the team quickly mounted a comeback and were back inside the top-10 at quarter distance. During the night the squad continued to make up places with Chiyo and Thong in the cockpit, with the latter handing the car over to Burdon in sixth place.
The Australian ran another quick and error-free stint and the squad were in contention for a top-five finish heading into the final few hours.
However, a mechanical issue saw them drop down the order with less than two hours remaining, with the crew unable to fix the problem before the chequered flag.
The #23 Nissan started from 15th on the grid, with Alexandre Imperatori taking the wheel for his maiden Dubai 24H attempt. Following an excellent pit stop by KCMG during a Code 60 caution period, the squad rose to second after the first hour.
The team then had to make three separate pit stops and dropped down the order, with drivers Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Liberati, Philipp Wlazik and Imperatori focusing on battling back into contention. Jarvis took the wheel and the squad returned to the top-10 after seven hours of running.
Imperatori and Liberati showed strong pace during their stints, but the team encountered technical issues with Jarvis on board just before the 12-hour mark and despite finding a fix, were forced to retire with mechanical damage after contact.
Katsumasa Chiyo, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “We started from 14th and ran as planed. Every pit stop was great and there were no problems with the car over the night. Unfortunately, mechanical issues appeared and we had to retire the race after we caught the top five, with just under two hours to go. The result was not what we wanted, but I believe it has made us much stronger for Bathurst and we will try to do everything we can over the next two weeks. Huge thanks to the team and drivers for their hard work.”
Joshua Burdon, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “Overall the Dubai 24H was tough for everybody in the team and it was unfortunate to have to retire our car while running around the top five heading into the final two hours. This event for us was all about testing and fast-forwarding our preparation for the IGTC. I believe as a team we have successfully identified areas that need work and where we need to gain to win races. A big thanks to everyone at KCMG for the big effort.”
Tsugio Matsuda, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “It was a shame to leave the Dubai 24H with less than two hours remaining. Although the result is disappointing, the race was a wonderful experience thanks to KCMG’s hard work. I am grateful to all the engineers and mechanics that worked tirelessly throughout this busy schedule. Thank you very much to everyone.”
Shaun Thong, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “First of all thank you to KCMG and Nismo for having me in the car. I feel very honoured to be part of the team. I knew it was going to be difficult with 70 cars on track and we were working very hard to stay clean and tidy. It is unfortunate that we were forced to retire with two hours to go. However, the team worked super hard to push the boundaries and once again everyone involved did a good job.”
Alexandre Imperatori, #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “All in all it’s been a tough race for us and we were always trying to come back from various issues only for the next one to drop us back again. The pace was encouraging in the race but we have certainly highlighted many areas that need improvement, which was ultimately the goal of the Dubai 24 Hour. It’s a shame we couldn’t get the cars to the finish but we can now prepare much better for our first Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign, starting at Bathurst in only three weeks time. Thanks to the whole team for the efforts this week, which I’m sure will pay off in the future.”
Edoardo Liberati, #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “We had some issues that cost us around four hours in the night, but the crew did an amazing job to get the car back on track before having to stop again. The pace was looking great and that’s a good basis for Bathurst, where we will arrive with lots of useful information and data. Thanks to every single person at KCMG and to my team-mates for the hard work.”
Philipp Wlazik, #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “First of all I would like to thank KCMG for the very warm welcome. I joined them here in the Dubai 24H for the first time and the Nissan GT-R was a new car for me, but I really enjoyed driving it. The team came here to prepare for their IGTC campaign, starting with Bathurst soon, but also to try and get the best result possible at the Dubai 24H. Our line-up was very strong and also our race pace was good enough for the podium, but bad luck meant that both cars could not finish the race. The team was able to identify some weak spots and will be able to sort them out, so they head to Australia well prepared. From my side, I enjoyed the week with the team and wish them all the best of luck and success down under.”
Ian Geekie, Team Manager of KCMG: “From the start we knew that Dubai 24H would be a tough and steep learning curve, but everyone on the team responded brilliantly to the challenge and we made a lot of progress with the cars. We had good pace and strategy in the race and were on target for a solid result so, despite the disappointment of the late retirement, we can take a lot of positives from the experience which gives the team a really solid base to build on. Once again a massive thank you to everyone involved for all the hard work.”