Honda top speed deficit no disadvantage at Fuji, says Nojiri
Honda's top speed deficit in comparison to SUPER GT rivals Toyota and Nissan won't prevent the marque from being competitive at Fuji Speedway this season, insists Tomoki Nojiri.
Following the introduction of the new Type S-based NSX-GT with revised front aerodynamics, Honda goes into the 2022 season with the least straight line performance of the three GT500 manufacturers, lagging both the all-new Nissan Z and revised Toyota GR Supra in the speed traps.
However, Honda was still able to put in a strong performance in the most recent pre-season test at Fuji, with Nojiri posting the second-fastest time on the second day at the wheel of the #8 ARTA Honda.
Nojiri's Honda GT500 stablemate Tadasuke Makino expressed concerns that the NSX-GT's top speed disadvantage could make it to overtake, even if he praised the car's performance as a whole.
But Nojiri believes that Honda needs to find a way to exploit the "weapon" of higher cornering speed than its rivals, refusing to accept that lower top speed necessarily equates to less performance at Fuji.
"Usually at Fuji, people tend to focus on that part [straight line speed]," Nojiri said in an interview with Motorsport.com's Japanese edition. "Of course, you can never have too much. But it’s definitely not the case that only those with the best speed on the pit straight can qualify at the front.
"I think how fast you are in the corners is surprisingly important. We don’t want to get caught in the trap of just chasing top speed.
"I heard the rumour that the Z was developed with the focus of reducing drag, and that if the NSX crews can corner fast, it could be a disadvantage, but I think it can also be our biggest weapon. I think we have to adjust our set-up strategically based on this."
Nojiri and ARTA teammate Nirei Fukuzumi finished as the top Honda crew in the standings in 2021, scoring two wins but also suffering a number of issues that cost them valuable points.
They included a penalty for ignoring a yellow flag in the Fuji 500km, a series of penalties at Sugo that cost the team a near-certain victory and a door coming unhinged during the driver change in the Fuji season finale.
While uncertain of where Honda stands in relation to its rivals, Nojiri says he wants to get his eighth season at ARTA, and his third alongside Fukuzumi, off to a winning start next week at Okayama.
"I think how you change your base set-up for qualifying will be the most important," said the 32-year-old.
"Even if the base set-up falls short of expectations, you have to prepare to bring it back to the right direction, as the conditions [compared to the pre-season test at Okayama] could be quite different.
"Of course we aim to win, but I think how we can make the next step after that is also important. What we need to focus on the most is how to bring the best out of ourselves."
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