June 15th (SAT) – Official Qualifying
Under a light overcast of clouds spreading in the skies above, and temperatures reading 35 degrees Celsius, 43 degrees C on the track added with very high humidity, the Official Practice of two hours got off to a start at 13:00, which also opened the whole weekend’s program. LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S (No. 37) started the day with Daisuke Ito working on the machine setting, then followed by Andrea Caldarelli to work on the long-run. Then later, in the remaining 10-minutes of only the GT500 class running, Andrea was back on the machine again and recorded a 7th position time (1’57.215) to complete this session.
Over at LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH (No.19), Japanese expert driver Seiji Ara was up first to drive, followed by Andre Couto in charge of the last segment of this session, and the team advanced to Qualifying, positioning at 14th (1’58.582) from the practice runs.
Andre Couto in charge of the Q1 on LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH was rather struggling from earlier in the day already, particularly over the matching of the machine and tyres, which consequently caused braking issues due to lack of grip, also quite a bit of under-steer. The Qualifying session came too soon for the team, and before their issues could be solved the team sank to 15th position on Saturday.
June 16th (SUN) – RACE
Thus the Race Day opened with the sun shining down powerfully from early morning. From 11:00 – 11:30 (Temp. 32 degrees C / Track: 42 Degrees C), Free Practice got underway with 15 cars of the GT500 class, and 23 of the GT300 practicing together to make final machine checks tuned to the Race of later in the day. From this session, LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’s gained P10 (1’59.228), and LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH took P12 (1’59.278).
After this session and during the hours preceding the Race, the drivers continued to be busy with fan service functions and casual events such as the Circuit Safari and the pit walkabout. From 16:00, just passed the hottest peak of the day, the 54 laps of SUPER GT Round 3 finally kicked off (under Temp. 35 degrees C / Track 44 degrees C) with a fine start!
Andrea Caldarelli on No. 37 from the second row of the grid was appointed to serve the starting driver. In the 7th lap, the mighty young SUPER GT driver from Italy quickly climbed to P2 after passing other machines that lost pace by collision. However, in the 9th lap getting passed by one machine, No. 37 was back in P3 again, and for a while had to stick behind patiently watching how the battle between the leaders, no. 12 (CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R) and no. 18 (Weider Modulo HSV-010), running just ahead of him may turn out. Eventually on the 20th lap when the top cars finally switched places, Andrea ran tail-to-nose with no. 12 and for some while with not much change in these positions. On the 25th lap, making a pit stop the remainder of the race was now handed over to Daisuke Ito.
Only however at this time, the pit stop took time and No. 37 could not help but slide down two positions and chase the top again, running in P4. From about the 40th lap, KeePer TOM’S SC430 pushed ever harder as skillfully holding off car no. 18 which was catching up fast from behind. And while this fight continued all the way to the final lap, suddenly a misfortune struck! No. 37 got hit by a GT300 machine (subject to penalty of +30 seconds) and by this accident the right-side rear got burst! Fighting off such hard battles with car 18, and also against heat – the Japanese driver of this team, Ito struggled hard clinging onto P4 till the end, but with the machine getting hurt and not much more that could be done, the team was chequered in 10th place (1 point gained), and finished the weekend in Malaysia with somewhat a bitter ending.
“I think my stint itself went pretty well, with some strong tail-to-nose actions with car 12, in battle for the top position. And twice, there were chances of overtaking, but for the sake of our tyres I avoided taking any risk, also expecting to reverse positions by the pit-stop. However, there was about 15 seconds loss in the pit, which cost us positions down. Daisuke did some fabulous driving throughout the last half of the race giving his best but in the very end got hit by a GT300 car, and what a disappointment this is… But this is racing. Let’s put it all behind us now and focus on getting it all back in SUGO.”
Meanwhile, Andre Couto with WedsSport ADVAN SC430, No. 19 which had to start the race from the furthest back row, on the 12th lap passed car 24 (KONDO RACING) who is running with the same Yokohama tyres, and earned one position up to P13. Nonetheless, with the pace not improving much more, catching up with the whole rest did not come so easy. Soon, with the tyres wearing down quite severely, Andrea had to pit-in after 21 laps. After tyre change and refueling, the machine was handed to Seiji Ara. Then, Ara with tenacious driving chalked up steady laps, and on the 32nd lap as overtaking a troubled car, positioned up to P14. However, in the final lap getting passed by one machine, No. 19 finished the race in 15th place.
“This whole weekend, tyres were always our biggest factor, and both Seiji and I struggled with inadequate grip, under-steer, which did not let us fight a real race. In the next round, let’s hope that there would be more chances for us to demonstrate our true abilities!” Round 4 of the SUPER GT (SUGO) will be held over the weekend of July 27 to 28th, as following the official test held (in Suzuka) over July 19 – 20th.
Global Racing Management