The FUJIMAKI GROUP SUZUKA GT 300km RACE, Round 3 of the 2020 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series took place at Suzuka circuit (one lap 5,807m × 52 laps) in Mie Prefecture on August 23 (Sun). In the GT500 class, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) came through with a magnificent first win of the season in a race interrupted by three Safety Car breaks. The GT300 class race was also won by a NISSAN GT-R, the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda).
Round 3 of the 2020 series took place as the first big race of the season for Suzuka Circuit. Unfortunately, however, the race had to be held without spectators due to countermeasures for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The skies were clear and the air temperature of 32 degrees Celsius before the 1:00 start of the race made for typical mid-summer conditions.
After the start, there was a collision that sent a car off the track in the opening lap that brought out the Safety Car to neutralize the race early on. After the restart, a fierce 3-way battle for the lead developed between the pole-starting No. 64 Modulo NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa), the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) and the No. 38 ZENT GR Supra (Yuji Tachikawa).
After the three leading GT500 cars began to catch up with the GT300 back markers around lap 13 of the race, passing the GT300 cars added another aspect to maneuvering of the top three. Here it was Quintarelli in car No. 23 that emerged in the lead, with No. 38 now in 2nd position. After that, a damaged machine spread parts on the track that brought out the Safety Car for the second time in the race. When the race was restarted again, car No. 38 developed machine trouble that caused it to retire from the race. And by the time all of the cars had completed their routine pit stops, car No. 23 (Tsugio Matsuda) was in the lead chased by the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (with Naoki Yamamoto having taken over the wheel from Tadasuke Makino). As the battle heated up between the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 (No. 23) and the Honda NSX-GT (No. 100), a GT300 car ran off the track in an accident that brought out the Safety Car for the third time in the race. After the restart, Matsuda in car No. 23 began to open up a margin of lead and run clear from the field. Eventually, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) expanded its lead and went on to win its first victory of the season in this accident-ridden race. After struggling to perform well on the opening round and Round 2 of the season, this represented a great comeback for NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 at Suzuka. Finishing 2nd was the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino), while 3rd place went to the No. 36 au TOM’S GR Supra (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Sacha Fenestraz) in its 3rd straight podium finish of the season.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT (Yuhki Nakayama) led in the first half of the race but lost ground due to delays in its pit stop work. In the second half of the race, the No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda) that had worked up steadily from its 7th-position grid start emerged in the lead and ran on to victory. The battle for 2nd place was so fierce that it involved machine crashes, but it was the No. 18 UPGARAGE NSX GT3 (Takashi Kobayashi/Kousuke Matsuura), while 3rd place went to the No. 2 SYNTIUM Apple LOTUS (Hiroki Katoh/ Masataka Yanagida) that had won the previous Round 2.
No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
“This week a grievous misfortune befell one of my friends and I was uncertain whether I would be up to competing in this event. I decided to try my best to hold back my tears until the race was over, so I never imagined that I would be crying those tears at a victory ceremony. I guess my friend was cheering for me from heaven. I think that I was able to contribute to this victory because I was more concentrated than ever before. I am just so grateful. Thankful to Ronnie [Quintarelli] for racing so hard to give us the lead, I was determined to defend that lead to the end in my stint no matter what.”
“There were a lot of things to worry about in this race, like being passed by car No. 38 and having the Safety Car come out repeatedly. When I got caught up in groups of GT300 cars, I was determined to gain ground by passing No. 38 and No. 64, and when I got the lead, I was determined not to give it up to anyone. The timing of our pit stop also turned out to be perfect, so I firmly believed that Tsugio [Matsuda] would keep that lead till the end. But, waiting out those last ten laps was really a long and tense time. In these past two years when we were unable to win the title, our Nissan fans continued to encourage us with their support. I want to dedicate this victory to all those great Nissan fans.”
No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R
“The team did the best possible job for us and we were able to get ahead as a result of the pit stop. As a result, we were in the lead after the Safety Car break. I thought I would be letting the team down if I couldn’t keep that lead. And in fact, it had been because of a mistake by me that we had the qualifying result had been bad, so I was determined to pay them back for that. That is why I was able to fight hard to the end.”
“Racing on a day with such a high air temperature was hard on the drivers, the team staff and the tires. But it was a boost that we were able to take advantage of the Safety Car breaks and that the team was able to work so incredibly [fast] in the pit stop. What’s more, [Katsuyuki] Hiranaka-san was able to take the lead in the first lap out of the pit (before the tires are warmed up). Although the conditions were tough for all the teams, I felt the pain seeing how hard Hiranaka-san was struggling to hang on. But in this third round, we two drivers were able to run perfectly, so I want to see us keep this momentum going and go for the season title.”
Source. Super GT