The key to TOM'S jumping Kondo for Fuji SUPER GT win
Ritomo Miyata believes saving fuel during the second stint of Sunday’s Fuji SUPER GT race was the key to he and TOM’S teammate Sacha Fenestraz taking their first GT500 win.
The #37 GR Supra of Miyata and Fenestraz came out on top in the fourth round of the season after Miyata was able to jump ahead of the long-time leading Kondo Racing Nissan shared by Kohei Hirate and Daiki Sasaki at the second round of pitstops.
Helped by Miyata staying aboard for a double stint, TOM’S was able to turn around the #37 machine in just 28.7 seconds when the car came in for its second of two mandatory refuelling stops on lap 73 of 99.
On the previous lap, the second stop for the Kondo car took 36.3s as Sasaki stepped aside for Hirate and further time was lost on a difficult out-lap for the Kondo car, allowing Miyata to overcut his way into a lead he would never relinquish with relative ease.
However, Miyata said he had been informed by his TOM’S crew that Kondo had not completely filled up its tank at the first round of stops and therefore knew that he could afford to take it easy during the middle stint and focus on saving fuel to shorten the final stop.
“The question was whether to do a full tank at the first pitstop or just refuel for a certain number of laps and then do a full tank at the second pitstop,” explained Miyata.
“The #24 car’s refuelling time [at the first stop] was short, and considering that the #12 caught up to us, I think they must have gone for a short-fill as well.
“In the second stint, our pace was better than the #24 car, but it seemed the #12 car was even a little faster than us.
"But it wasn’t enough for them to overtake us, so I was able to go at my own pace while conserving fuel, and I think that’s why we were able to create such an advantage in the second round of stops.”
The second pitstops that won the #37 car the race
#37 - In lap (73) 1m36.120s, out lap (74) 2m38.527s
#12 - In lap (74) 1m38.413s, out lap (75) 2m41.797s - approx 5s loss to #37
#24 - In lap (72) 1m37.754s, out lap (73) 2m51.420s - approx 15s loss to #37
Such was Kondo’s time loss during the second stops that Sasaki and Hirate were also overcut for second by the Impul Nissan of Kazuki Hiramine and Bertrand Baguette.
Having come in for his last stop one lap later than Miyata, Hiramine was just exiting the pits when the #37 Toyota of Miyata arrived on the scene, only to lock up and run wide at Turn 1.
Hiramine said he was still confident of closing the gap to Miyata even after that error, but in the end had to concede that the pace of the TOM’S driver was superior as he ended up 7.5s down at the chequered flag.
“I was catching the #37 and #24 cars nicely, and just when I thought it was time to start making my move, both cars in front pitted,” recalled Hiramine.
“[Exiting the pits after the second stops] I heard the #37 car was coming on the radio, but I locked up the tyres and I went off. After that, I felt like somehow I have to catch up, the tyre wasn’t damaged.
“In the end though, the #37 car was just a bit faster. I tried everything I could to catch up, and I couldn’t, so it’s a bit of a frustrating result. But I think we did the best we could.”
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