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SuperGT: So What Happened at Fuji? Preperation for Malaysia Round 4

June 11, 2008

SuperGT 2008 Series round 3 was held some weeks back now and it was a pretty sad day overall for the Nissan GT500 GT-Rs managing a best place of 9th (#and going down from there. All this after an amazing start to the season with back to back 1st and 2nd places for the GT-Rs so what went wrong? I had heard of a bit of uproar prior to the SUGO practice sessions but it was difficult to nail down exactly what happened. Suffice to say lots of angry people were upset at the SuperGT series governing body the GT Association (GTA).

Read on to find out more!

Success Ballast

The SuperGT series employs the “success ballast” system where teams that win are handicapped by adding certain amounts of ballast (weight) to the vehicles for the next round. The amount of ballast carried is then displayed on the rear window of the car. The amount of ballast is defined clearly by the GTA as the following:

Race Position 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
Ballast Added +50kg +30kg +20kg +10kg No Change -5kg -10kg -15kg -20kg

This system is in place and should be applied to all teams equally the problem arises when it is not and the GTA takes matters into their own hands to even out the teams. After the 1-2 GT-R wins back to back the GTA decided to add an additional 80kg of ballast to all Nissan teams. Further, this announcement came mid season at the busy break between 2nd and 3rd rounds giving teams one session to work out how to deal with the news. The result was cars running 100kg or more of ballast at Fuji in round three.

Strategic Mistakes

Not all the problems can be related directly to the weight however. The GT-R is fast at Fuji and teams look forward to the long race – 500km – where car setup matters more than qualifying position. Unfortunately tricky weather conditions for the qualifying and the race itself make strategy and tire choice extremely important.

For the Nismo #22 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R for example the weather conspired with a couple of bad choices of when to change to slicks and it all came apart. They failed to set a time in qualifying due to switching to slicks right before the heavens opened up and were relegated to start from the back of the GT500 grid.

During the race, driver Michael Krumm drove aggressively and made contact with another GT-R resulting in a stop-go penalty. Later, when co-driver Yanagida was at the wheel he mistakenly passed while under yellow flag resulting in a second penalty. Towards the end of the race Krumm was back in the car and making good time with 10th spot in sight and at least 1 championship point. He again was aggressive and came into contact a few times with the #17 NSX. Finally he managed to sneak into 10th 2 corners before the finish but had it snatched away post race when he was given a penalty for contacting the NSX in the battle for 10th and was thus relegated to a 12th place finish. Talk about frustration.

I’m sure every GT-R team struggled with their own challenges that day but setbacks aside it’s time to look to the next round to see if things get better and the GTA stops penalizing the GT-R to let it assume it’s rightful place as overlord of the SuperGT. Since all the GT-R’s finished 9th or later in round 3 we would hope that ballast would be reduced by 20kg across the board but that is yet to be decided.

Round 4 Preparation – Sepang Circuit, Malaysia

Round 4 in takes us to Malaysia and Sepang International Circuit from June 20th – 22nd 2008. The traditionally hot race is a difficult one for drivers but this year there is some relief in the form of newly designed cooling system in the GT-Rs. Hopefully this will help but the GT-R’s are still bound to be the heaviest cars on the track.

Two of the SuperGT race queens have already arrived for the SuperGT roadshow traveling around Malaysia drumming up support. This year representing SuperGT from Japan is Kotomi Kurosawa and Ayami Sasaki and they are certainly dressed appropriately for the Malaysian weather.

Stay tuned for more updates from Malaysia as we get closer to the date and more cars and girls arrive in Malaysia.

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