PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 grabs first win of the Season!
The title race intensifies with one race remaining
On Oct. 18, the SUPER GT IN KYUSHU 300KM, Round 8 of the 2009 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at the Autopolis in Oita Pref. In the GT500 class the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 driven by Juichi Wakisaka and Andre Lotterer won its first victory of the season.
Driving the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 from the 4rth position on the grid, Lotterer got a great start and moved up on the tail of the pole position starter, Richard Lyons in the ZENT CERUMO SC430. These two machines continued to run that way with never a gap of more than one second until they both pulled into the pit at the same time at the end of lap 30. Of the two teams it was the PETRONAS TOM'S that had the faster pit work, enabling it to return to the track two seconds ahead of the ZENT CERUMO, effectively in the lead.
Back in the race with the positions now reversed, with Yuji Tachikawa in the ZENT CERUMO SC430 chasing Juichi Wakisaka in the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430. These two drivers are also the SC430 development drivers and their battle remained close and fierce, but the ZENT CERUMO would soon be penalized for a violation during the pit stop in which the engine was started before the car was completely lowered from the jack after the tire change. After that, Wakisaka continued to run clean in the lead to the checkered and the win. For the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 team this was their first victory of the season and their first since round six at Suzuka in 2006. For the SC430 camp it was the second win of the season and their first ever at Autopolis.
This result takes the championship title race down to the last round of the season. There are three pairs of drivers now with a chance to win the season title, including Satoshi Motoyama (MOTUL AUTECH GT-R) who now leads the ranking with 78 points. Today's winners, Wakisaka and Lotterer, hold 2nd place with 73 points, and today's 4th-place finishers, the ARTA NSX pair of Ralph Firman and Takuya Ito, stand in third position with 61 points. The titles will be decided at the final round on November 7-8 at Twin Ring Motegi (Ibaraki Pref.).
In the GT300 class, the JIMGAINER ADVAN F430 driven by Tetsuya Tanaka and Katsuyuki Hiranaka came from 3rd position on the starting grid to win the race. This was the second consecutive with for the Ferrari camp, with the other Ferrari F430 having won the last round.
With this, the GT300 class title race will also come down to the final round at Twin Ring and here six teams still have a chance for the title.
No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 [GT500]
Juichi Wakisaka: "This year we haven't had any races we could be proud of until now, so it's really good to get this win. But today was really Andre's (Lotterer) race. During my stint in the second half of the race Tachikawa was right behind me but I continued to run conservatively with concern for tire wear. Tachikawa had the same car and the same tire (maker) as us, so there wasn't much difference in our lap times. This is a course where it is difficult to pass, and I believe that we both had that in mind. And I think Tachikawa was also thinking about maintaining a gap over his title rival, the No. 1 car. The Motegi course where the final round will be held is a track that both Andre and I like. I want to see us go all out to battle for the title with an eye on car No. 1."
Andre Lotterer: "I feel great! At the start I almost got along side Richard (Lyons). After that there were one or two chances to pass him, but I didn't want to do anything risky. Wakisaka-san just said that it was my race today, but in these races when we win, we win together and when we lose, we lose together. I want to see us win the last round. In these last two or three races we have been giving more than 100% in our battle with the NISMO (No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R) team. So we intend to win in the last race."
No.11 JIMGAINER ADVAN F430 [GT300]
Tetsuya Tanaka: "This year we have almost won but fallen short in a number of races with this new machine designed and constructed by JIMGAINER. That's why I'm especially happy that we won this race. From the start, the Axio (No. 74) and the Garaiya (No. 43) in front were very fast, but their tires wore down faster and just when I finally got past them and was thinking "Great!" I got hit and spun out. But I was able to get back into the race right away and I could see the leaders in front of me, so I said to myself, "It's not over yet." When Hiranaka took over in the second half I though we would be OK, because he had done well in our long test run. This result has narrowed the point gap for the final round, so I want to try to win it."
Katsuyuki Hiranaka: "This season we have had several chances to win but failed time after time, so I'm really glad we won today. When I saw Tetsuya- san (Tanaka) spin out I almost gave up hope. But when I got out on the track for my stint and heard over the radio that I was in 3rd position and I could see Orido-san (in No. 19) right ahead of me, I started pushing hard. On the 100R curve it looked like Orido-san was slowing down and a GT500 car came along just at that time, so I was able to get past him. This win has given us a shot at the title. For the last round there will be no weight handicaps, so I think we have a chance. At the opening round when there were also no weights, Tetsuya-san won the pole position. That, and the fact that the machine is in good condition now should give us a chance."