Published on November 13th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Super GT 2014_Round8 Twin Ring Motegi, Race Preview
After starting the season at Okayama in April, the 2014 AUTOBACS SUPER GT is finally reaching its last round. Biggest topic of the “MOTEGI GT 250km RACE” hosted at Twin Ring Motegi on November 15th and 16th is of course where the championship will land. Five teams in GT500 class and three teams in GT300 class will take on the final round with possibility to become champion. Title contention is indeed the main focus, but the final race is a race that anyone would want to win, and, basically, it is fought out with no handicap weight. It should become a harder race than usual. Don’t miss the instant of dramatic battle and the moment of exultation.
Five teams of three manufacturers are in for the title in GT500 class
First, let’s check the title contention in the GT500 class. After the previous round in Thailand, the driver that emerged to the top of driver’s ranking was James Rossiter of No.36 PETRONAS TOM’S RC F who won Round 6 Suzuka and Round 7 Thailand consecutively. Daisuke Ito/Andrea Caldarelli driving No.37 KeePer TOM’S RC F are following behind the leader with 3 points deficit. From there, Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli of No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R at 6 points behind, Hironobu Yasuda/Joao Paulo de Oliveira of No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R at 7 points behind, and Naoki Yamamoto in No.18 Weider Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT at 14 points behind. Fifth ranked Kazuki Nakajima is not counted since he drives the same PETRONAS TOM’S RC F as Rossiter.
Among them, only Rossiter and Ito/Caldarelli can clinch the title on their own given that winning the race is a must. They are the same RC F of TEAM TOM’S, but the team says that it will give the chance equally, so whichever at front will be closer to the title, thus, battle between the two cars is inevitable.
Next are the third and fourth in the ranking, Matsuda/Quintarelli and Yasuda/Oliveira in GT-R. They need a fourth place finish or higher at least. Preferable situation would be to run at second or higher and have those two RC F in behind. They would want to create a situation where another GT-R, such as No.46 S Road MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Masataka Yanagida), running in the top group to support them and push No.36 and No.37 cars down to fourth place or lower.
Yamamoto with a large deficit must finish second or higher at least. To put it simply, winning the race would be his only goal. And then wait for the results of teams in the top group. Takuya Izawa will join Yamamoto as his partner driver for the event. Izawa has been competing in the races abroad this season, but he has driven NSX CONCEPT-GT in testing and can be counted on to give every bit of his ability to help out his junior fellow Yamamoto. And the race is held at Honda’s home track Motegi. No.17 KEIHIN NSX CONCEPT-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Toshihiro Kaneishi) as well as others from the NSX CONCEPT-GT squad are expected to take on the race highly motivated. If NSX CONCEPT-GTs dominate the upper places with No.18 at the lead, then a miracle may happen.
All of above are based on assumption that there are going to be support from other cars of the same make, but this is the last round. It is a race that everybody wants to win. A strike of unexpected upset or accident can turn the field into turmoil where nothing matters, no room to give support.
The race is not the only thing that shouldn’t be missed watching. Motegi is said to be a difficult track to overtake, and the race distance is shorter than usual at 250km, hence, in a way, the chance to flip the game during the race is small. For that reason, the qualifying that decides the starting grid is also very important. Very intense competition is expected from as early as the qualifying day in the upcoming event.
No.4 car seemed to have a clear advantage. But never say never in GT300 class
Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka duo of No.4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU Z4 ranked first as well as Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Bjorn Wirdheim of No.11 GAINER DIXCEL SLS and Jorg Muller/Seiji Ara of No.7 Studie BMW Z4, both trailing the leader by 9 points, are the three teams that have a chance to become GT300 class champion.
Taniguchi’s squad clinches the title the moment it crosses the finish line third or before in the race. Considering they had won the season opener where all cars had no handicap weight, they are very capable of achieving that. On the other hand, both Hiranaka/Wirdheim and Muller/Ara are winless this season, so Taniguchi’s team with two wins has advantage over them. Therefore, these two would require a third place finish or higher and Taniguchi’s squad finishing tenth or lower. Both teams would want to secure the front row (1st and 2nd) in qualifying and lead the race to put pressure on No.4 car.
Needless to say, Taniguchi as well as Kataoka are former GT300 champions and strong competitors who are always in the title contention every year. However, Hiranaka/Wirdheim is the winner of last year’s race at Motegi and the two drivers of Muller squad have extensive experience in overseas races and they are tough drivers. In racing, you never know what will happen until the checkered flag. At the final round of 2011 held at Motegi, the top ranked GAINER’s SLS was upset by GOODSMILE’s BMW that was second in the point ranking with a 4-point gap. It’s still fresh in memory that in the following year 2012, ENDLESS TAISAN 911 flipped the game from third in the ranking with 9 point deficit.
Teams other than above three should not be underestimated either, namely, the winner of previous round in Thailand No.3 B-MAX NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Lucas Ordonez) as well as the hybrids that favor the circuits like Motegi, No.0 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Yuhki Nakayama/Tomoki Nojiri), No.31 OGT Panasonic PRIUS (Morio Nitta/Koki Saga), and No.55 ARTA CR-Z GT (Shinichi Takagi/Takashi Kobayashi). The title contention should get even more complicated and tensed if these strong contenders get engaged in the top group battle. It looks like it’s going to be a race that you would want to stay focused like in GT500 class, or even more.
Technical regulations of GT500 class had changed significantly this season, and, as a consequence, all cars were brand new model. Hence this year’s champion will engrave his name in the history. And, in the GT300 class, it has turned out to be a battle between the FIA GT3 cars and its outcome is also attracting attention of European racing world.
Final round of 2014 SUPER GT series provides a full of topics with the title contention at the center of attention. Twin Ring Motegi in Tochigi Prefecture will be the venue of qualifying on Nov 15th and race on the 16th.