The “42nd International Pokka Sapporo 1000km”, Round 5 of the 2013 Autobacs Super GT series was held at the Suzuka Circuit (one lap 5.807 km x 173 laps) in Mie Pref. on August 18. Amid numerous accidents to be expected in a race of this length, the Weider Modulo HSV-010 driven by Naoki Yamamoto and Frederic Makowiecki won the GT500 class race for their first win of the season. In the GT300 class, the Subaru BRZ R&D Sport (Tetsuya Yamano/Kota Sasaki/Takuto Iguchi) team won its first GT race.
In the early morning, a drizzle of rain had fallen on Suzuka Circuit, but by the afternoon the mid-summer sun had returned and the air temperature had risen to 34 degrees C. A large crowd of 36,000 spectators was on hand to see the start of this long-standing race event at 12:30 in the afternoon. For the competitors, the goal lay 1,000 km away. Despite being an endurance race, with these tough high-performance Super GT machines the idea of running a steady endurance race may sound good in theory, but in actuality there are near-sprint high-speed battles going on all over the track.
From pole position the Motul Autech GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) took the early lead, followed by the 2nd- and 3rd-place qualifiers, the Weider Modulo HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto) and the Petronas TOM’S SC430 (Kazuki Nakajima). Yamamoto in the Weider Modulo HSV-010 was passed at one point by Nakajima in the Petronas TOM’S SC430 to drop into 3rd position, but from there he showed spectacular driving to power his Lexus SC430 past the Nissan GT-R and take the lead.
One-third of the way into the race on lap 66 a GT300 class machine broke down and came to a stop. It was an accident that produced a small fire in the machine. The Safety Car was brought out to control the race until the machine could be removed. For nine laps the cars ran in line behind the SC. The Weider Modulo HSV-010 took this opportunity to make a pit stop that dropped it back to 3rd position again. But now, Makowiecki was at the wheel of the Honda HSV-010 GT and he drove it magnificently to pass the lead Motul Autech GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) on lap 116 to reclaim the lead.
Once in the lead, Makowiecki and then Yamamoto never let the pursuing the Motul Autech GT-R get close, as they ran on to victory. For the team it was the first win in a year, and for both Yamamoto and Makowiecki it was a memorable first GT500 class victory.
For the Honda HSV-010 GT it was the second win in two races, the third of the season and ninth GT500 win overall.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting Subaru BRZ R&D SPORT driven by Kota Sasaki never let the pack get close as it ran on at a pace all its own. After Sasaki, teammates Takuto Iguchi and Tetsuya Yamano also ran their stints to perfection. But, during Sasaki’s final stint there was breakage in the car’s rear aerodynamic parts that caused him to lose speed. A pit stop for repairs allowed the GSR Hatsunemiku BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi) to take the lead. When Sasaki returned to the race with the repaired machine, he was able to regain his original speed and caught and passed the BMW in the last 13 laps. The Subaru BRZ went on to the win, its first in its second year of Super GT competition.
No. 18 Weider Modulo HSV-010 [GT500]
Naoki Yamamoto: “I am simply happy to have this first win in my fourth year in Super GT competition. Going into the last ten laps, I as so tense that it didn’t feel like my own body I was in. The strategy was for me to drive the first stint and watch how things would develop during the early stages of the race, but I didn’t expect to be passed by car No. 36 (Petronas TOM'S SC430). Usually I would have responded by going back and trying to re-pass it, and perhaps making a mistake in the process, but this time I stayed calm and kept telling myself to drive steadily. When I took the victory checkered, I looked at the faces of everyone on the team at the pit wall and it was really a moving moment for me.”
Frederic Makowiecki: “Coming from Europe to Japan, I thought the first year was surely going to be difficult for me. I was able to drive fast but somehow unable to get a win easily. But this time, we were able to win at the Honda home course, and I was able to win together with [Naoki] Yamamoto, so it feels great. It was a very tough race in which I pushed and pushed hard in the middle stages of the race and then, once in the lead, I worked to hold position and conserve on my tires. But, the minute we got the win it was suddenly a wonderful day.”
No. 61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport [GT300]
Tetsuya Yamano: “I makes me very happy to know that now I can say to Subaru fans all over the world, “We did it!” The Subaru BRZ has been competing since last year, and this year the machine has been steadily getting faster, but it was still difficult to win a race. And today, with the Safety Car coming out and with the machine damage (in the latter half of the race), we were still losing the lead even though we had good speed. But everyone from the General Manager to each member of the team really wanted to win this race. And I think that is why we were able to win.”
Kota Sasaki: “Finally we have made it here to the winners’ press conference. I was happy to win pole position yesterday, but until now we had won pole three times but were unable to get the win. So, I was beginning to think that it might not be a good thing to get the pole. In the final sting the defuse broke and I had to make a pit stop for a quick repair job, and after that the balance wasn’t as good as it had been, so it was difficult driving the last part. It turns out that it is simply never easy to get a win. At the end I was concentrating so hard that I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I am just happy that we won.”
Takuto Iguchi: “I am truly happy. I drove the second stint and the fourth stint, but to tell the truth, I was a bit nervous before I got behind the wheel for the second stint. But the whole team was pulling for me and it turned out I was able to drive more relaxed. I drove while paying a lot of attention to the fuel economy and tire management and what to do when being lapped by a GT500 car or when lapping a slower GT300 car. It has been a wonderful weekend being able to get up on the podium as a member of the Subaru team for the BRZ’s first victory.”
Super GT Series