Round 3 of the 2013 Autobacs Super GT Series was held at the Sepang International Circuit (lap = 5.543 km x 54 laps) in Malaysia on June 16. The GT500 class race was closely fought from start to finish, with the pole-starting Calsonic Impul GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Joao Paulo de Oliveira emerging victorious for their first win of the season. The GT300 class race was a battle between the two Honda CR-Z machines, with the victory going to the ARTA CR-Z GT driven by Shinichi Takagi and Takashi Kobayashi.
Following the win in the last round by the Panasonic apr Prius GT, this was the second consecutive victory for the hybrid machines.
Just before the start of the race at 4:00 in the afternoon, the skies over Sepang Circuit had a thin cloud cover and the temperature was, for Malaysia, a comparatively comfortable 33 degrees C. The crowd in the nearly packed main stand watched as the race got underway for the third round of the 2013 Super GT series.
Starting from pole position, the Calsonic Impul GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) entered the first turn followed closely by the ZENT Cerumo SC430 (Kohei Hirate) starting from the second grid position. After that, it appeared that the race would develop into a duel for the lead between these two machines. However, the ZENT was bumped by the Reito MOLA GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi) running in 3rd position and received damage to its right rear tire that forced it to return to the pit. This left Matsuda in the lead in the Calsonic pursued by the Weider Modulo HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto) that had worked its way up from an 8th-position start. The machine of the Weider team that had won the 2011 and 2012 Sepang races was very fast, enabling Yamamoto to pass Matsuda and take the lead, leaving Matsuda in 2nd position.
In its routine pit stop, the Weider Modulo HSV-010 took on Frederic Makowiecki as its second-stint driver, by the car’s engine failed to start for some time after the pit work was completed, resulting in a big time loss. This allowed the Calsonic Impul GT-R, now driven by Joao Paulo de Oliveira to reclaim the lead with no effort. From there, De Oliveira raced on steadily lap after lap, not allowing the Denso Kobelco SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka) now in 2nd position to close the gap on him. De Oliveira continued to hold a 3-second margin of lead all the way to the goal and the win. This great runaway victory was the first for the Calsonic Impul GT-R team since round six last season at Fuji.
This was the first win of this season for the Nissan GT-R and its 21st overall in the GT500 class. For Matsuda it was his eleventh victory and for De Oliveira his seventh.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting ARTA CR-Z GT driven by Shinichi Takagi stayed in the lead all the way to the routine pit stop, only to have a delay in the pit work erase its lead and allow the Mugen CR-Z GT to take command of the race. At the wheel of the ARTA CR-Z GT in the second half of the race, Takashi Kobayashi was able to catch and pass the Mugen CR-Z GT and give the Honda CR-Z its first Super GT victory. For Takagi it was his 13th win in the GT300 class and for Kobayashi it was a felicitous first win.
No. 12 Calsonic Impul GT-R [GT500]
Tsugio Matsuda: “Having won pole position in yesterday’s qualifying, I wanted to begin today’s race by making a good start. I thought that would be the first step. I managed to get through that step successfully, but thinking about maintaining the tires’ life prevented me from increasing the pace, and I was also bothered by an over-steering tendency during braking. But the speed of car No. 18 (Weider Modulo HSV-010) was something else, so all I could do was simply try to stay with it as best I could. Thanks to the difference in pit work, we were able to get the lead again and JP (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) managed to keep the lead and give us the win, even though we were not as fast as them. So, now we have to work again to improve our speed.”
Joao Paulo de Oliveira: “In the first stint, Tsugio [Matsuda] kept up a good pace and the team did a great job in the pit work during the routine stop that put me on the track in the lead. So, this victory was really the result of the whole team’s efforts. Also our plan to make an earlier pit stop than our rival put me into the race with a clear track for several laps. This also brought good results. However, the machine is still not in the best condition, so I think we need to work more on the machine’s speed.”
No.55 ARTA CR-Z GT [GT300]
Shinichi Takagi: “We got disappointing results in the last two races, so I have to admit that I felt pressure coming into this race at Sepang. But from the very start of the official qualifying things went well and we were able to win pole position. M-TEC prepared the car very well for us and the team set it up well. Also, Bridgestone prepared some good tires for us. It worried me that our biggest rival (MUGEN CR-Z GT) had the same machine and the same tires as us, but I knew that without the weight handicap they were carrying, I knew we had at least that much of an advantage. I wanted to get a win for the CR-Z as soon as possible CR-Z, so it feels great that we were able to do that.”
Takashi Kobayashi: “We were in 2nd position when I got out on the track for my stint, but I was gradually able to narrow the gap on the leader. I was told that once I caught up with No. 16 (MUGEN CR-Z GT) I should hold back and spare my tires until five laps remained, and then make my move. But, to tell the truth, I didn’t have the reserves or the confidence to do that, so I just charged on, thinking that if I caught it I would try to pass it then and there. My driving is still rough and lacking in that level of polish, so the fact that we were able to win with my level of driving is because of the great car M-TEC and the team prepared and the winning tires that Bridgestone prepared for us, so I am really grateful to all of them.”