Weider HSV-010 grabs its second win of the season!
The “speed pair” triumph at Suzuka with winning strategy
The 40th International Pokka GT Summer Special, Round 5 of the 2011 AUTOBACS SUPER GT was held at the Suzuka Circuit (one lap 5.8075km x 87 laps) in Mie Pref. on August 21. The GT500 class winner in difficult conditions with intermittent rain was the Weider HSV-010 team (drivers: Takashi Kogure / Loic Duval). This is the team’s second win of the season.
On and off sprinkling of rain from the afternoon of race day made for tricky race conditions. It was raining at the time of the start at 3: 10 and the track was wet. With proven performance in wet conditions, the S Road MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) pulled away at the start from pole position to open up a lead, chased by the Nissan teams MOTUL AUTEC GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) and CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo Lima de Oliveira) and also the Weider HSV-010 (Loic Duval).
With its long 500 km distance and two mandatory pit stops and driver changes, the International Pokka GT is an endurance race where team strategy plays an important role. It was made even more complex this time by the varying rainfall during the course of the race. The GT-R machines did well during the early stages of the race, but as the rain grew lighter the Weider HSV-010 was able to pick up the pace. A crucial turning point came when the Weider HSV-010 made its first pit stop just as the track was beginning to dry out. Taking over the wheel from teammate Duval, Takashi Kogure was able to outrun the competition decisively on rain tires and take the lead.
Being a long-distance race, however, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Kogure, as a red flag came out to clear a crashed car from the track and a spin-out of his own when hit by another car that caused him to give up the lead for a while. Nonetheless, Kogure managed to overcome it all with his blazing speed and build up a big lead before relinquishing the wheel to Duval again for the final stint. By that time, however, the track was nearly dry. Taking the gamble of running the last third of the race on dry slick tires, the S Road MOLA GT-R driven by Ronnie Quintarelli began to close the gap rapidly. Using the margin of lead he had to the fullest, Duval pressed on in the Weider and was finally helped out when rain began to fall again with a few laps remaining in the race, enabling him to hold off the charge of Quintarelli in the GT-R and take the win. For the defending champion Weider HSV-010 team, this is their second win of the season following the victory in round three in Malaysia.
In the GT300 class race, the 3rd-place qualifying R&D SPORT LEGACY B4 (Tetsuya Yamano/Kota Sasaki) emerged the winner. The Yamano pair and their LEGACY B4 also won this race last year, and this is their first victory since.
Winning Driver Comments
No. 1 Weider HSV-010 [GT500]
This is our second win of the season but I am really thrilled to have won this race under such amazing conditions.
Takashi Kogure: “This is our second win of the season but I am really thrilled to have won this race under such amazing conditions. I guess this is another side of racing that makes it so exciting. I am really happy to have won here today. When I was hit by a GT300 machine in the chicane after taking the lead, I didn’t know what had happened or who had hit me and my mind just blanked out for a minute (grimace). But, I was able to recover quickly and regain a good pace. And, when car No. 36 that had passed me in the meantime suddenly made its pit stop, the track in front of me was clear so I pushed hard to try to give Loic as much of a margin of lead as possible before giving him the wheel. It is good that we won but, thinking in terms of the championship race, it is too bad that car No. 46 finished 2nd and kept their series lead (laughs).”
Loic Duval: “I am very happy. It was a long and very difficult race. And, since it was a race where I couldn’t relax and lose my concentration for a minute, it was exhausting. It wasn’t a bad start for me but I was hit by another car and the No. 12 GT-R got ahead of me. I did manage to pass it back, though. The conditions were tough during Kogure’s stint with the Safety Car coming out to stop the competition and the collision he suffered, but he fought through it and drove wonderfully to give me a lead. During the last stint I drove with special care to save the tires. But the No. 46 GT-R was fast on its slick tires and that had me worried. I was lucky when the rain started falling again and I was able to get the win. And, I’m especially happy now because I just became a father a month ago.”
No.62 R&D SPORT LEGACY B4 [GT300]
Tetsuya Yamano: “The Summer Special here at Suzuka is truly a special race. It is the longest race in the SUPER GT series, which makes the performance of the machine especially important, as well as the team strategy. During the early stages of the race Kota [Sasaki] got the lead for us and kept an eye on the weather and the amount of rain before turning the wheel over to me. In order to keep the lead, I concentrated on not letting the rain tires be damaged [by the drying track]. But the pit was telling me to push hard (grimace). After that I just had to pray that Kota would do the rest. And he passed car No. 33 just as I thought he should.”
Kota Sasaki: “It was a tough race (grimace). There were changes in the weather and the track condition that had me constantly agonizing. This time was much more tiring than last year’s win here. But the Legacy B4 was fast throughout the tough conditions. When car No. 33 caught up with us I wasn’t expecting it at all. The battle with Masami-san [Kageyama of car No. 33] was a very fair one, as it had been in the first stint. When I plunged into the 130R turn [after taking the lead] I was frightened for a moment. And, after I was in the lead the rain began to fall again and I was about to start crying (laughs). But, I really wanted to win, so taking the checkered first made me very happy.”