PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 Wakisaka, Lotterer pair take Season Title!
ARTA NSX wins in NSX's last race
The MOTEGI GT 250km RACE, 9th and final round of the 2009 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held on Nov. 8 at Twin Ring Motegi (one lap 4.801 km) in Tochigi Prefecture. The winner in the GT500 class was the ARTA NSX driven by Ralph Firman and Takuya Izawa. It was a final moment of glory for the Honda NSX machine that retires from SUPER GT this year after 13 seasons of grand performance on the track.
The winners of the 2009 GT500 class Drivers series title are Andre Lotterer and Juichi Wakisaka (PETRONAS TOM'S SC430). The GT500 class Team series title also goes to LEXUS TEAM PETRONAS TOM'S.
The winners in the GT300 class were the DAISHIN ADVAN Ferrari team (Takayuki Aoki/Tomonobu Fujii). In the class the Drivers series title went to the 3rd place finishers in this race, Manabu Orido and Tatsuya Kataoka (WedsSport IS350). The Team series title was won by RACING PROJECT BANDOH, the team of the same WedsSport IS350.
The race began with Andre Lotterer in the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 coming from 2nd grid position to pass the pole-starting ARTA NSX driven by Ralph Firman to take the lead shortly after the start. However, that lead never opened up more than about one second before the two machines made their regular pit stop. Compared to the early pit stop of the TOM'S SC430, Firman in the ARTA NSX waited as long as possible before bring the car into the pit. With this tactic the ARTA team succeeded in taking back the lead, after which Takuya Izawa ran unchallenged to the checkered to bring the team its second win of the season.
The ranking leader until this race, the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R suffered tire trouble early in the race that dropped it well back in the field. This made a 2nd place finish enough for the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 team to clinch the season title and eliminated the need for Wakisaka to press too hard for the win and let him cruise home to 2nd place and the title. This gave Wakisaka a follow-up to his 2006 driver's title and gave the team its second consecutive team title.
In the GT300 class, the DAISHIN ADVAN Ferrari, which had recorded the fastest time in every practice and qualifying session of this race weekend, showed the same speed in the race as it ran away to its second victory of the season.
Of the six teams in contention for the season title in this final race it was a 3rd-place finish today that gave the title to the pair of Manabu Orido and Tatsuya Kataoka
No. 8 ARTA NSX [GT500]
Ralph Firman: "I made a slight mistake at the start of the race today and let Andre (Lotterer, car No. 36) get past me. But, since we had a good choice with our tires, I was able to run as fast and at times faster than No. 36. Our plan was actually to make the pit stop on lap 29, but partly because No. 36 made its pit stop early, I stretched it out to lap 33 and that gave us the lead again. The condition of the machine has been good in the final stages of the season, and for being able to win the NSX's last race, I really want to thank the team. The NSX is a fantastic car and I have had many good experiences with it. It is sad that this is the end, but I look forward to a new challenge with the new car coming out for next year and will do my best to try to win the series."
Takuya Izawa: "I felt more pressure this weekend than ever before. But the team prepared the car so well for us and the condition of the tires was good too, and since Ralph pushed it as long as possible (before making the pit stop), all I had to do in this race really was just to drive well on the first lap out of the pit. But, there were so many other extra factors at play this week besides what we drivers were putting into it, with all the people who have been involved with the NSX, and this being Honda's home course and the power we received from all the fans who came out. I think that is win is the result of all that. I was running with all my concentration and all my heart each and every lap of today's race, so I don't remember much. In the two years I have been with this team, I have learned so much from Manager Aguri (Suzuki) and Ralph and I wanted to show everyone the progress I have made thanks to them here in my race today."
No. 81 DAISHIN ADVAN Ferrari [GT300]
Takayuki Aoki: "Having won the last race of the season, it is going to feel good during the off-season (laughs) I am really happy today. The fact that the safety car came out in the race today was something we could have done without (grimace). The seven (No. 7 RX-7) that was moving up so fast was running on a change of four tires like the ones we were running on, and that is why they were catching up. Calculating the relative paces and the number of laps remaining, I didn't think we could be passed, but the Manager came on the radio and encouraged me by saying that the real race starts once they catch up. After that I felt better and just concentrated on running with no mistakes."
Tomonobu Fujii: "We won three pole positions this season but were unable to win any of those races, so I'm especially happy with today's win. I went out from the start with the intention of building up a margin of advantage but the seven (No. 7 RX-7) was faster than we expected, so I pushed it and kept my mind on getting the machine in good shape. We were planning to change just two tires at first, but our owner [Nobuyuki] Oyagi advised us to "Go with four." That was the right move and it enabled us to win. I want to thank the team, the staff and the owner plus everyone else involved."
GT500 Driver Title winner comments
No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 [GT500]
Juichi Wakisaka: "All I can say is how relieved I am right now. This season there were times during the races where I made mistakes (that caused the team to lose places). That's why I am so relieved right now. My heart was really pounding today, but it was good knowing that we were ahead of (ranking rival) car No. 1 and that there was another SC430 (like ours) ahead of us. Andre [Lotterer] just said to me, "So, this is your third title! That's amazing." But the first time was with Akira Iida and the second time he was my partner, and I think that is the real reason I won those titles. He is a priceless partner."
Andre Lotterer: "This is the greatest feeling. This is my fourth year with the team and twice I have won the drivers title with Juichi. It is really the greatest team. And this title is also because of the fantastic work of the team in giving 100% to get the car in the best possible condition. I want to thank everyone for this too. I had a good start again in this race and as able to feel good as I drove. And this helped us get the title. I lost my father just after the Autopolis race and I believe that I was able to win this title because my father was [in my heart] with me. After my father fell ill last year I was able to spend a lot of time with him because of the help from the team and from Juichi. I was doing well in the latter half of the season and I feel that was because of the power my father gave me."
GT500 Team Title winning Manager comment
No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 [GT500]
Manager Masanori Sekiya: "In the end I think everything went well but looking back at the season there was a bad tire choice in the opening round that caused us to no-point. After that there were a number of unfortunate races in the early stages of the season where we lost points due to penalties and collisions. But having won the last round at Autopolis made me feel that we had a strong flow going in our favor. That brought us within five ranking point of the leader, car No. 1, and I think that made them worry a bit and feel the pressure. In a fight it is the challenger that has strength, and I think that may have been the case here. But nothing compares to the good work that each and every member of the TOM'S staff and the mechanics have done. And the drivers both did a fantastic job. Andre's father passed away and it was tough on him I'm sure, but in the pre-race meeting I said that Andre's father would give us strength. And, I and everyone on the team are pleased that it turned out to be true. I am also happy with the way Juichi delivered a very good performance under conditions that were tough, because [with the team strategy] we couldn't let everything rested on his performance alone, and he held up under those conditions."
GT300 Driver Title winner comments
No. 19 WedsSport IS350
Manabu Orido: "Before the race I was telling everyone that we were absolutely going to win the title, but in my heart I was actually having doubts. So, my first feeling now is that I am really relieved we did win it. I knew about my partner this year, Kataoka, from before. I knew how he came up from GT500 to GT300 and the feelings involved. So I thought that if I was going to drive with him we should be shooting for the title. The IS350 was also in its second year, after debuting last year and I thought that it was ready to go for the series title too. So, I think that when he came to the team everyone was of the same mind that we could go for the title."
Tatsuya Kataoka: "I am relieved too. I knew about this team before coming to it but there were also some worries I had when it came to actually working with them. But the minute I joined and began to work with them there was a warm feeling as if we were all old friends. So, from the opening round there was a real feeling of harmony. And, when we won that opening round I felt that this was a team that could win the title. But there were also strong rival out there and the level of competition was very high, so we could never let down in any race, and some of the races were very tough. Through it all, though, I was able to work with the Manager and with Orido-san and give it 100% without ever losing hope until it all came to this great result. I am really glad that I was able to join this team. During the race, rather than the fact that the seven (No.7 RX-7) was chasing us, I knew that if car No. 11 passed us the title would be overturned, so I ended up being distracted by their battle. But, because Motegi is a course where it is hard to pass, I also knew that if we kept their guard up we wouldn't get passed. Hiranaka (No. 11) was with me at the Toyota school and in that sense is an old rival and I wanted to be sure that we beat them in the title race."
GT300 Team Title winning Manager comment
No. 19 WedsSport IS350
Manager Masataka Bando: "I am partly relieved and partly very satisfied that we achieved our goal of winning the title. Before I came to the race world and to leading this team, there was my father, Masaaki Bando, who is now the GTA representative director, and during the three years I have been manager there are many people who still think of it as that Bando's team. At first I had Akira Iida -san and Quest to teach me a lot. For the development of the IS350 we had Orido-san as our development driver, and I learned a lot from that too. The things that Orido-san has taught me were finally brought to fruit this season, I feel. On the team, the mechanics are older than me, and the only one on the whole team younger than me is Kataoka , so there was a lot of thinking I had to do about every decision to be made. Also, there was the pressure of having a car and drivers that were too good to blame anything on, but I got great cooperation from Yokohama Tire and our sponsors and the performance of the team helped us get through the season without any no-pointers. I am just really grateful to everyone."