ARTA NSX takes pole position and eyes come-from-behind title win
NSX cuts good start for its final GT race
The Qualifying for Round 9 of the 2009 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, the MOTEGI GT 250km RACE, was held on November 7 under fair skies at the Twin Ring Motegi (one lap 4.801 km) in Tochiki Prefecture. The winner of the GT500 class pole position was the ARTA NSX driven by Ralph Firman and Takuya Izawa. This will put the NSX machine in front on the first row for the final race of the season on Sunday the 8th.
Normally, the SUPER GT qualifying is run in a Super Lap format with each of the top qualifiers from the first session running a single timed "Super Lap" one at a time. However, the 9th round of the series here at Motegi adopts a "Knock Out" system. In this system the timed qualifying runs are divided into three sessions. In the first two sessions, the slowest qualifiers are "knocked out" and cannot proceed to the next session. In the final session, only the top qualifiers compete for grid position with timed runs. This is the second time the Knock Out system has been used this season, following round 6 at Suzuka.
In this Knock Out qualifying, the ARTA NSX and the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 staged a fierce battle of the stopwatch. After clearing the first and second sessions they moved on to a final face-off in the third session. Here, Ralph Firman in the ARTA NSX punched out the fastest time of the day with a 1 min. 44.390 sec. lap. Andre Lotterer in the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 also gave it his best shot but fell just 0.01 sec. short. This result gave the pole position to the ARTA NSX.
This was the first pole position of the season for the ARTA NSX team, and for Firman the sixth of his GT career. This will be the last GT race for the NSX car and this is the 47th pole position it has won in a total of 100 races (GT500) races it has entered. This is the largest number for any single model.
Looking at the season ranking, the leader, Satoshi Motoyama (MOTUL AUTECH GT-R) will start from 5th position on tomorrow's grid. Motoyama can clinch the title if his team finishes 2nd or 1st in Sunday's race, but with the 2nd ranked team of Juichi Wakisaka and A. Lotterer (PETRONAS TOM'S SC430) have qualified 2nd and the ARTA NSX team of R. Firman and T. Izawa sitting in pole position, 5th is a difficult position to start from. However, Motoyama still has the advantage in the point standings, and considering the fact that this will be a title-deciding race, it is very difficult to predict the outcome.
In the GT300 class, the DAISHIN ADVAN Ferrari driven by Takayuki Aoki and Tomonobu Fujii won its third class pole of the season.
There are still six teams in contention for the driver title in the crowded GT300 class title race. Of the six, five have qualified in the top ten today for tomorrow's race. This guarantees that the GT300 race is going to be every bit as intense and exciting as the GT500 race.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No. 8 ARTA NSX [GT500]
Ralph Firman: "The car's condition was very good fro the morning practice, so I thought we could win the pole position. There have been some very tough times this season, but we are still in contention for the title in this last race and have now won the pole position. Although it is slim, we still have a chance to win the title, so I want us to make the most of this pole position and win tomorrow's race. During the qualifying, I concentrated on the primary goal of getting this pole position. So, I haven't really been thinking much about tomorrow's race. This will be the NSX's last race, so if we can win the race and the title tomorrow, it should get a good place in the Honda Museum (laughs)."
Takuya Izawa: "Since this was a Knock Out type qualifying, I had the chance to run time attacks too. My turn came in session two and I hadn't run on new tires until then, so I was a bit uncertain. But I managed to clear that session. In session three, Ralph ran exceptionally well. I always learn a lot from him, but watching him deliver in an all-or-nothing situation like that shows me I still have more to learn. I believe that today's was a great result for all the people who have run the NSX until now. Tomorrow I want to give it my best shot to win the race and the title."
No.81 DAISHIN ADVAN Ferrari [GT300]
Takayuki Aoki: "A pole position always feels great, no matter how many times you win one. But I never expected us to win three this season (laughs). For my last timed lap of the third session, I think I did well in selecting a good position to run a fast lap. And there were no problems with my run during the lap. But there is a bit of a problem in the machine, and I ran it off the track during the first session. I want to see us make some improvement in it before tomorrow's race. We have no chance to win the title, so we have nothing to lose and I just want to go out there and drive very hard in the race. This is the last race of the season and if we can win here we will be able to go into next season's opener feeling good. So I really want to win."
Tomonobu Fujii: "This time we brought very good settings here to Motegi, and the machine balance was very good right from the beginning. We ran the fastest times in both the morning and afternoon sessions. So, we have seen that the machine is running fast, not only for one lap but over the long haul as well. I think we are in a very good condition now. Motegi is a course where our machine does well, and I believe that is why we have gotten good times. Since it was a Knock Out qualifying this time, I drove one session too, and we were able to record the fastest lap in all three sessions. I think that puts us in good position to win tomorrow. I think most of the teams that are in contention for the title will be running on a no-refueling strategy. Our car doesn't have good fuel economy, so we will have to make up for the added pit time by being fast out on the track. I intend to run all out to do that."