Suzuka: Series race report

Debut Race Brings the New GT-R a 1-2 Finish! The SUZUKA GT 300km, Round 1 of the 2008 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Pref. on March 16. The GT500 class was won in a come-from-behind victory by the 2nd-place qualifying...

Debut Race Brings the New GT-R a 1-2 Finish!

The SUZUKA GT 300km, Round 1 of the 2008 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Pref. on March 16. The GT500 class was won in a come-from-behind victory by the 2nd-place qualifying No. 23 XANAVI NISMO GT- R driven by Satoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer. This gave Nissan's new GT- R an impressive 1-2 victory in its debut race.

In the GT300 class, victory went to the 2nd position grid starter, the No 7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 driven by Hiroyuki Irie and Ryo Orime.

The race started at 14:00 under clear blue skies worthy of the season opener. The temperature at the start was 19 degrees C. and the track surface temperature was 33 degrees.

After suffering transmission trouble in the morning free session, the No.1 ARTA NSX had to start the race from the pit. All the other finalists, including the 15 contestants in the GT500 and 23 in the GT300 class, made clean starts.

Coming out of the second turn, however, the 3rd-position grid starter, the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R driven by Sebastien Philippe spun out and hit the tire barrier with the rear end of the machine. This forced Philippe to return to the pit for repairs. The spin had been the result of a brush with the No.36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 driven by Andre Lotterer, but it was later judged to be a "racing accident" and no penalty was issued against No. 36.

Meanwhile, the pole starter, the No.22 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Michael Krumm), and 2nd-position starter, the No.23 XANAVI NISMO GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) were pulling away from the pack at a fast pace. After the 10th lap when the two leaders began to lap the GT300 class leaders, they already had close to a 5-sec. lead on No.36 running in 3rd position.

It was after the 20th lap that the leaders began to make their pit stops. Of the top two, it was No. 23 that pulled into the pit first at the end of lap 22 and completed a tire change, refueling and change of drivers to Satoshi Motoyama in a total of 32 seconds. The leading No. 22 made its pit stop two laps later. Although their pit work and the change to driver Masataka Yanagida was actually slightly faster than that of No. 23, Yanagida was caught by Motoyama in No. 23 on the hairpin and passed on the inside coming out of the turn. Being on his pit-out lap with tires not yet warmed up, it apparently just wasn't possible for Yanagida (No. 22) to hold off Motoyama's (No. 23) charge. Yanagida was also unfortunate to have a GT300 machine right in front of him at that critical moment.

After that, these two machines maintained the same pace and an unchanging distance between them lap after lap. The gap between them and the machines from 3rd place down continued to widen. Over the next 30 laps to the finish, the two leaders were never threatened and the eventual 1-2 finish for NISMO brought the new GT-R a spectacular sweep for its return debut in GT racing.

This was the first 1-2 finish for NISMO since last years round three at Fuji Speedway. And it was the first win for a GT-R machine since the CALSONIC SKYLINE (Benoit Treluyer/Yuji Ide) victory at Suzuka in 2003. This means that Treluyer was the winner of both the last race of the Skyline GT- R and the first race of the Nissan GT-R.

Finishing in 3rd place was the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka/Andre Lotterer). In the latter stages of the race there was a time when No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa/Richard Lyons) was closing the gap, but by the finish the gap had opened again to seven seconds and the third spot on the podium went to No. 36.

The first finisher among the NSX teams was the No. 18 TAKATA DOME NSX (Ryo Michigami/Takashi Kogure). In the later stages of the race they were unable to increase their pace and were passed by other teams but managed to hold on 7th.

After suffering considerable damage to the machine's rear end in the first- lap crash, the mechanics of the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R worked frantically to get the machine running again in about 20 minutes, after which Tsugio Matsuda ran hard to score the race's fastest lap. However, due to a lack of total laps run, the team was unable to get its fastest-lap points.

Shiden and RX-7 stage breathtaking match race!

In the early running of the GT300 class race, the pole starter, No.2 Privee KENZO Asset Shiden (Hiroki Katoh) ran in the lead, chased by the No. 7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 (Hiroyuki Irie). Following at some distance in 3rd was the No. 26 YUNKER POWER TAISAN PORSCHE (Nobuteru Taniguchi). The No. 46 MOLA LEOPALACE Z (Kazuki Hoshino) passed the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Morio Niita) to move into 4th position. Chasing them were the No. 81 DAISHIN ADVAN Z (Takayuki Aoki) and the No. 77 CUSCO DUNLOP SUBARU IMPREZA (Tetsuya Yamano).

On lap 26, No. 7 made its pit stop while running in 2nd position and completed a tire change, refueling and a change of drivers to Ryo Orime. The leader, No. 2, held on until lap 31 before making its pit stop. At this point No. 2 was leading No. 7 by over 60 seconds. But, by the time its pit work was over and it returned to the track with Kazuho Takahashi now at the wheel, that gap had been narrowed to just about three seconds.

The race now became a tight battle between the pursued Takahashi in No. 2 and the pursuer Orime in No. 7. Takahashi fought hard to keep the lead, but Orime was finally able to move through on the inside in the chicane of lap 39. It was a move that Takahashi was unable to block and he had to give up the lead. Once out in front, Orime proceeded to widen his lead gradually to the point where the two lead machines were each running alone and unchallenged.

Behind the, a battle for third had developed between No. 26 (Taniguchi>Shinichi Yamaji) and No. 81 (Aoki>Tomonobu Fujii), which had passed No.43 (Niita>Shinichi Takagi) into 4th position. At one point the gap between the two machines was down to a few seconds. Back in 5th, No. 43 began to pick up the pace again and was closing in on No. 81 until a brush with a GT500 machine caused No. 43 to lose ground again.

Eventually, there were no more changes in the order before the race ended. For the No. 7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 (Hiroyuki Irie/Ryo Orime) team, it was their first win since the fourth round of the 2006 season at Sepang. And for Orime it was his first SUPER GT win ever.

Second place went to the No. 2 Privee KENZO Asset Shiden (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh) and third to the No. 26 YUNKER POWER TAISAN PORSCHE (Nobuteru Taniguchi/ Shinichi Yamaji). It was a rewarding podium comeback for Yamaji, who missed the latter half of last season due to illness.

Winner Comments

No.23 XANAVI NISMO GT-R [GT500]

Satoshi Motoyama: "I am very happy. Sports car lovers from around the world have had their eyes on the new GT-R, and since I have been involved in the development of the SUPER GT spec race machine from the beginning, I admit that I felt a lot of pressure to do well here. Amidst this pressure, the engineers, the mechanics and everyone on the team gave me the kind of environment where I knew we could win if everyone gave 100% and did their jobs as we knew we could. For this I want to thank everyone. It was an important thing getting this debut win, and even more important will be winning the season series title. I will be working hard with Benoit to reach that goal."

Benoit Treluyer: "Of course I'm happy. Everything went just according to our strategy. From here on, we will be carrying handicap weights, so the races will be harder, and I'm sure Toyota and Honda will come back more competitive than ever. Hat's why we wanted to get as many season points as possible today."

No.7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 [GT300]

Hiroyuki Irie: "I'm happy, but I'm also relieved. I became the No. 1 driver for our team last season but was unable to win. Now I have won the first race of my second season. The Yokohama Rubber's tires have been a good match for our machine, and if we do things right, w should be able to get another win."

Ryo Orime: "This is my first win in the GT, so all I can say is that I am very happy. The machine is in very good condition, and it was great that the Yokohama Rubber's tires didn't lose their grip all the way to the finish. The last ten laps felt very long for me. Now I am going to do my best to help us get a second win."

-credit: super gt

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