During the weekend of April 28th – 29th, which falls upon the “Golden Week” (* a series of on-and-off holidays in a week) Round 2 of the 2013 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series, the “FUJI GT500Km RACE” took place at Fuji Speedway (in Shizuoka Prefecture). (Spectators: 31,600 on the Qualifying Day, 48,500 for the Race)
Andrea Caldarelli/Daisuke Ito of LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S positioned 5th (1’32.497) and Andre Couto/Seiji Ara on LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH finished 12th (1’32.859).
At 14:15, under brisk weather and pleasant auspices, the Official Qualifying - Q1 by only the GT500 class began. In this session. LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH entrusted Andre Couto with the pursuits aiming for the Q2 which is tried out by the top 8 qualifiers. In the 20 minutes of this session, Andre pushed hard as exerting his utmost and rewriting the records, but with the best time here marking 1’32.607, positioned 12th in the Q1.
Meanwhile, Andrea Caldarelli on KeePer TOM’S SC430 headed onto the Q1, but when the tyres were warming up and on the 3rd lap just about getting ready to make some real time-attacking attempts, white smoke rose up from the machine and Andrea had to stall the machine on the in-side of the last turn.
Subsequently, the session had to be red-flagged and also because any car which is determined to have caused the red flag loses the right to participate further in other sessions. As the regulations also require that the time recorded by such machine lose effect, thus KeePer TOM’S SC430 was demanded to start the next day’s race from the very back row of the GT500 class starting grid.
Andre Couto: “In the practice this morning, our machine rear felt quite consistent, especially on the high-speed corners. Our setup towards the race itself went in the right direction. However, in the qualifying we could not fully bring out its performance, and settled to 12th. We will fight towards finishing in high positions tomorrow.”
Andrea Calderelli: “In the morning sessions, we made long runs without using new tyres, and could feel that the machine was in quite a nice condition so we went onto the Q1 with enough confidence to even go fighting for the pole. But it’s a pity that we ended up with a machine trouble for today.
Though we must start the race from the far back, being it a long race of 500km, this may give us chances to go pushing hard even from way behind, and eventually catch up with the up-field, so please watch us!”
April 29th (MON): Skies above Fuji Speedway on this national holiday was again blessed with fine weather conditions from the morning, with the temperature of 15 degrees C (Track temp.: 23 degrees C), and the Free Practice (8:30 – 9:00) began. Andre Couto and Andrea Caldarelli ran warm-up laps in their respective LEXUS SC430s, making last checks into the machines and tyres.
Finally, the clock ticked 14:00 (Air temp.: 18 degrees C / Track: 29 degrees C), the time to start the race. Both GRM drivers trusted the starting stint to each of their teammates, and thus the long, 110 laps of the race got set to begin.
Though having to start from the very back grid, Andrea’s teammate Daisuke Ito on LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, kicking off from the rolling start jumped up to P13 on the opening lap! Through some fierce battling that fired up from the beginning of the race, Ito with skillful driving climbed some more positions up and by the 12th lap was in P7.
Then, on the 20th lap, No. 37 gained another notch up to 6th since car 23 running ahead had to retire, and furthermore up to 5th, as passing another machine which went to pit in.
By the time car was handed to Andrea Caldarelli, and which by then 36 laps had been driven, the ambitious Italian driver went storming out strong towards the course, showing off the true “forza” of LEXUS machines. In fact, by this time of the race, LEXUS machines were actually dominating the up-field – all of the top 5 positions!
From the midway through, the race development became unvaried and still. Andrea behind the wheels of No. 37 chalked up steady laps as defending P5. Then eventually, as finishing the 73rd lap, KeePer TOM’S SC430 was in the control of Daisuke Ito again and who was to drive the car to chequer.
Only however, getting slightly behind in terms of the pit-stopping time, the Japanese driver had to yield to NISSAN GT-R no. 12, and rejoined the field in P6. Chasing hard and constantly from the 97th lap and onward, with also brave tail-to-nose actions fought with two other cars but not being able to improve the position much more, the team finished in P6 (with 5 points gained).
Rolling off from the 6th row on the grid, Couto’s teammate Seiji Ara on LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH kept P12 throughout the early laps. However, on the 10th lap lost one position down to P13 which was then recovered by the 28th lap as No. 19 got back to running in P10.
Delaying the pit-in timing till after 41 laps, finally Ara went in for a routine-stop and WedsSport ADVAN SC430 went under the belt of Andre Couto. After returning to the course, the Portuguese veteran driver overtook NISSAN GT-R no. 24 on the 51st lap, moved up to P11, and for a while stayed in that position.
After 81 laps run, No. 19 pitted in again for another switch-over, and with Seiji Ara delivering constant laps throughout the last stint, the team finished the 110 laps of race in 11th place.
Andrea Calderelli: “With the feeling we had from yesterday, a P5 finish seemed quite possible for us but the temperatures did not rise as much as we had expected, and thus we finished in P6. But starting from the 15th grid and to score 6 points is a satisfying result.
Also today, with the victory of car no. 36 of the same LEXUS force, I think all together we were able to exhibit the strength of the LEXUS, so we can say this was a very good race. In our next race in Sepang, let’s be sure that it will be us who will win the race, and towards that goal, we will continue to work hard!"
Andre Couto: “Our machine was definitely improved from the last race in Okayama. It had a much better balance. It’s because the entire team gave its best, but today though getting close we could not make it in the range of points earning.
We will shift our attention to the next round with a positive outlook and try making a good car with good tyres. Please continue to support us and LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH!”
The next battle, Round 3 will be held in Sepang, Malaysia over the weekend of June 15th to the 16th.