Pole-to-checkered win battled in the heat
The SUPER GT INTERNATIONAL SERIES MALAYSIA race, Round 3 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at the Sepang International Circuit (lap = 5.543 km x 54 laps) in Malaysia on June 10th. The GT500 class winner of a fierce battle in the heat was the pole-starting Weider HSV-010 driven by Takashi Kogure and Carlo Van Dam.
The previous day’s qualifying had been run in temperature’s relatively cool for tropical Malaysia (but nonetheless nearly 30 degrees C.), but race day saw the heat rise to a sweltering level with sunshine that nearly stung the eyes. As the afternoon wore on the heat lessened slightly, but the air temperature was still 33 degrees C. at the time of the 16:00 start of the race.
It was the pole-sitting Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure) and the second-position ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Kohei Hirate) that got the best starts to the race, and it looked as if it was going to develop into a two-car showdown. Meanwhile, as it drew past 17:00, the air temperature finally dropped below 30 degrees, with the track surface temperature at 49 to 45 degrees, which made conditions very tough on the tires. As the tires wore down sooner than expected there were machines returning for emergency pit stops, while others suffered punctures, made spin-outs or overran the track.
In the meantime, the Honda HSV-010 GT and the Lexus 430 battling in the lead continued to run strongly and draw away from the rest of the field. The two machines battled on out of sight from each other with a 1 to 2 second gap between them. Even after the mid-race routine pit stop and driver change the positions of the two remained the same. Shortly after the driver change, the ZENT CERUMO SC430 now driven by Yuji Tachikawa pulled up directly on the tail of the Weider HSV-010, now in the hands of Carlo Van Dam. But, Van Dam refused to yield and ran on to victory. This gave the Weider HSV-010 and the Honda camp their first win of the season.
This was the second consecutive victory at Sepang for the Weider HSV-010 and Honda Racing. For Kogure, it was his seventh GT career win, and for Van Dam, a rookie to GT500 this season, he got his first win in only his third race. It was also the sixth win for the Honda HSV-010 GT.
In the GT300 class, it was also the pole-starting HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama/ Tomonobu Fujii) that held the lead the whole race, with the exception of the driver-change pit stop interval. It was an admirable pole-to-win victory.
No. 18 Weider HSV-010 [GT500]
Takashi Kogure: “It was my first experience starting from pole position in quite a while and I was a bit nervous. The start went well but during the first stint I was driving, the feeling of track grip wasn't good yet and it was especially hard maintaining front tire hold. Since I had driven the second stint last year I knew it wouldn’t be bad, and Carlo ran well and kept a 3-second margin for us to the end for the win. I am grateful to the team for setting up the car so well and to Carlo also.”
Carlo Van Dam: “I feel great. But, it wasn’t and easy race. As I watched Kogure-san racing on the monitor in the first half, I kept telling myself not to get tense. First of all I want to thank Kogure-san for this win. And I want to thank the team, too. It is just my third race since moving up to the GT500 class, so I am grateful to the team and Honda for giving a driver with such little experience this opportunity.”
No.33 HANKOOK PORSCHE [GT300]
Masami Kageyama: “It may have looked like an easy race since I started from the pole position and kept the lead, but to tell the truth, the first half wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed to an onlooker. This is a course where it a car can easily come up on you from behind, so I wanted to give Fujii as much of a margin as possible for the second half. But, it wasn’t easy to open up such a lead. Tire management was also quite difficult in the early stages of the race. It turned out that we were able to win with not threat, which makes me realize that there really can be wins like this.”
Tomonobu Fujii: “I think it must have been hard in the first half of the race before the track grip improved, but the rivals that we thought would he a threat were gone, so I was able to conserve my tires as I ran in the latter stages. Still we were able to win this easily at the Sepang track which has always been a bad one for Hankook tires (wry laugh).”