Quintarelli's Nissan Z "the best it's felt all year" at Fuji
Nissan SUPER GT ace Ronnie Quintarelli says his NISMO Z is the best it has felt all season on Saturday at Fuji Speedway, having made use of some set-up hints from the sister NDDP Racing car.
Quintarelli and his teammate Tsugio Matsuda took their best grid position of the 2022 campaign so far in eighth place, as the Italian driver managed to get the #23 car through Q1 for the first time this season.
Although Matsuda's Q2 lap was 1.3 seconds adrift of the pole benchmark set by Bandoh Toyota driver Sena Sakaguchi, Quintarelli was bullish of the team's chances of making up ground in Sunday's 100-lap race.
That's partly thanks to some changes made to the set-up of the #23 car in the wake of NISMO colleagues Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi's blistering victory last time out at Suzuka.
"The car felt good since the second part of the morning [free practice] session," Quintarelli told Motorsport.com. "I think it was the best the car felt all season. I was pushing, and I could feel the car was there.
"We worked on the set-up, we had some information from car #3, because [up to now] each crew was going its own way. So this time we mixed their set-up with our set-up and it felt good.
"The car felt really good in Sector 2, in high-speed corners, but missing something in the last sector, in low-speed corners."
Quintarelli said that he was tasked with getting through Q1 instead of Matsuda following the Japanese driver's penalty that meant he couldn't contest the latter half of the morning's free practice session, including the 10-minute GT500-only segment that usually serves as a dress rehearsal for qualifying.
He admitted that with 11 points to make up on championship leaders Chiyo and Takaboshi, he and Matsuda are facing a pair of important races at Fuji and Suzuka for their hopes of fighting for the title.
"I was hoping Tsugio would be P5 [in Q2], but he couldn’t put the sectors together," said Quintarelli. "With P5, I would be confident. With P8, we need to work a bit harder, but I’m still optimistic.
"I would say this race and the next one at Suzuka are both very important. We need to grab big points. At Suzuka the #3 car was so quick, so either here or [at the next] Suzuka [race] we need to come back.
"With this set-up I think we can be very strong at Suzuka. That’s why I say that Suzuka is also a very important race."
Baguette bullish on Impul race pace
One place ahead of the NISMO car on the grid for Sunday's race will be the #12 Impul Z shared by Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine.
While unable to challenge the Yokohama-shod cars that locked out the front row in Q2, Baguette said he was satisfied to be so close to the pace of the fastest Bridgestone-shod car, and feels that the team's choice of tyres for the race should put them in good stead for a fightback.
"Looking at what we did in Round 2 [at Fuji], where we failed to get to Q2 and we struggled for race pace, it was a good day," Baguette told Motorsport.com.
"In Q2, the Bridgestone cars were all within three tenths more or less, but there are some different tyre choices among the Bridgestone users, so it will depend on the conditions for the race.
"Considering our choice, we can be happy with our position. The hotter it is, the better for us. Our pace on high fuel and used tyres was pretty good, so I am feeling confident for the race."
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