There was no way I was going to miss this. Calling it the final Super GT race might be a little dramatic, but with next year’s cars aligning with DTM regulations, it’s safe to say that some of the unique aspects of Japan’s premier racing series will fade away. So despite the Fuji Sprint Cup not being part of the series – which ended the other weekend in Motegi with the Lexus/Zent/Cerumo SC taking the championship – the short 22-lap races would provide just as much excitement and a final ‘true’ Super GT feel of a series that I began covering around 10 years ago. With the races not winning teams and drivers any points, only prize money, there was a much more relaxed atmosphere about the whole event…
… which kicked off early on Sunday morning with a line up of all the cars on Fuji’s main straight. It was a great opportunity to get close to these 2013 cars…
… and I started all the way at the bottom of the grid with the GT300 class. While not as high profile as the manufacturer-backed GT500, the second tier provides a great diversity with private teams campaigning all sorts of cool machines like this Green Tec Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. You might recall that I photographed the 2012 car last year when it was looking a little less reflective than this year’s model. It’s easily one of the more menacing-looking cars in Super GT.
The McLaren MP4-12C of Team Cars Tokai Dream28 is one entry I was really looking forward to checking out. A new entry for 2013, I was finally going to get to see it in action. I’ll be expanding on some of the cars on the grid in more detail in the second post from this round, so for now…
… I’ll just leave you with a couple of images of this impressive machine…
… and the other British car on the grid – the Arnage Racing V12 Vantage GT3. As you may know, all of these cars churn out a hell of a lot of power in road trim, but to stick to the 300hp – or closest calculated performance figure – that keeps every entrant in the same performance bracket, they all run restrictors to limit air entering the engine, and therefore limiting power output.
The same goes for the GT3 version of the R35. This is one mean-looking machine and I still think Nissan or Nismo should be making a limited edition road version of this car with the wider bodywork. They could keep the rear-wheel drive layout even!
Out of the 27 GT300 cars entered in this year’s Super GT championship, seven of them were GT-Rs in GT3 specification – a ready-to-race chassis that was easily the most popular in the field.
Honda fans have two CR-Zs to root for in this class: the official Mugen car and this Autobacs Aguri car which joins its bigger and even wilder GT500 counterpart…
… the HSV-010 GT. It still baffles me how a non-production car was able to participate in Super GT, but obviously Honda is one manufacturer the series can’t afford to drop. The car definitely served as a good stop-gap until the new NSX arrives next year.
But it’s so sad that Honda never produced a road version of the HSV-010. I think enthusiasts have been shedding many tears over this decision for years now as words really can’t describe how good this thing looks up close. The proportions are perfect – it sits low and wide and definitely don’t get me started on that beautiful front end…
It’s great to see how the GT-R has evolved over the years. The angular shape of previous seasons have given way to smoother more flowing curves and in particular it’s this angle that I really like the most. Here you can see the beautifully-contoured vented front fender which connects up to the aerodynamically-profiled side mirror.
Although it’s the oldest shape in the GT500 class, the Lexus SC has stood the test of time rather well – the Team Sard UZZ40 proves that. All cars in the higher class of GT are powered by 3.4-liter naturally-aspirated V8s – a move that perhaps hampered the originality of the series – but a sign of the times as organizers try to keep things competitive.
Those that haven’t been to a Super GT race will not probably realize that a good slice of the people that attend are only there to grab pictures of the race queens. It’s quite amazing, but in Japan these girls have as much following as the drivers themselves! At times impossible to get close to the cars when the photographer huddle moved in, so I thought I’d show you this unique phenomenon from a few different angles.
True passion right here!
With time available on the straight coming to an end, I grabbed a last few couple of shots…The GT300 sprint race
… before heading to the sidelines as the Super Formula race started. Previously Formula Nippon, this single seater series has always been held along side Super GT with a lot of the teams running cars in both classes and some drivers doing double duty too. As this race was going on I was busy checking out the pit garages to grab some more detailed shots of the GT cars – something you will be seeing more of in the second post. So while those with a more technical interest will enjoy tomorrow’s story..
… it’s the action I want to concentrate on first.
The Fuji Sprint Cup is held over two days with the GT300 and GT500 classes being separated and each running two races – one on Saturday the other on Sunday. There are no driver changes, so one driver gets to show what he is made of on Saturday while the other teammate drivers the second race the following day.
At a normal Super GT endurance race you have all the time in the world to move around the circuit and hit up different corners, but 22-laps at Fuji go by rather quickly – in about half an hour – so you are always scrambling to move quickly. Here’s one of those seven GT-R GT3s that were entered this year – the OGT Racing car driven by Igor Sushko…
… and the S Road car that won the GT300 race on Sat and came 7th on Sunday, seen here entering the 300R corner at impressive speed.
Every race series has one of these cars – the one you unconsciously over-shoot because, well, it’s the nicest and most badass looking in the whole class. That’s probably why I ended up with a ton of shots of the R&D Sport BRZ which I shot last year in the Fuji pits.
The car was off the pace, not managing to finish the 22 lap race on Saturday and coming in last during Sunday’s sprint race. It will be interesting to see what the team plans to do to make it more competitive for next year, or if they change it altogether. New Impreza WRX maybe?
While Nobuteru Taniguchi’s teammate, Tatsuya Kataoka, didn’t manage to complete the 22 laps in Saturday’s race, Taniguchi brought the car to a third place finish on Sunday. It was a great result for the team behind one of most unique cars in GT300 – and I’m not referring to the itasha livery, but rather the 4.4-liter V8 that’s under the hood!
No matter what series you know, you will always find a Porsche in there somewhere. Team Hankook will most likely be moving onto the 991 platform next year…
… so this may well be the last time their 997 GT3-R was out in action.
I hope all the teams that run the SLS GT3 like Green Tec stick to using them next year too as they really do look and sound brilliant and add such a cool aspect to the series…
… however if it’s the most curious entry you are looking for, the Prius still takes the win. Of course, there is nothing ‘eco’ about this car because sitting low in the rear of that chassis is the same – albeit somewhat plugged – 3.4-liter V8 that powers the GT500 Lexus SCs.
The Prius and the CR-Z are, of course, both great examples of why Super GT is so damn cool. Where else can you see hybrid eco cars turned into fully fledged race cars?
The only V12-powered car in the series is the V12 Vantage GT3 which finished Sunday’s Sprint race in 12th position with Hideto Yasuoka.
With the 22 laps wrapped up it was a scramble to return back to the pits in time for the podium, where Hiroki Katoh grabbed the first place cup after bringing his McLaren MP4-12C victoriously across the line. The hectic schedule didn’t leave any time to hang around grabbing too many pictures…The GT500 sprint race
… it was back out on the circuit to wait for the main race of the day to start – the big boys and the GT500 class! With the sun slowly heading for the horizon the light couldn’t have possibly been more dramatic as all 15 cars charged into turn one.
This is where Honda, Nissan and Toyota battled it out for the last time in Super GT guise.
Satoshi Motoyama – once the works Nismo-Motul driver – was in charge of driving the Reito Mola R35 in Sunday’s race, and while the car does look pretty imposing with it’s black on silver/white livery, he didn’t do too well finishing in last position about a second a lap off the pace.
Much like the BR-Z in the GT300 class, it was the HSV-010 I couldn’t keep my lens off. This is easily one of the most stunning cars to have ever participated in the class…
…the Arta car probably exhibiting the most photogenic livery of the lot.
Anyone that has ever driven Fuji will know that this corner that leads into the 300R is one of the trickiest, and where you instantly see what sort of levels of downforce cars are able to generate based on the speed they are able to bring in. Get this right and you are able to make up time around the 300R, which in a normal street car requires you to back off as you shoot for the apex. In high-downforce race cars, it’s much more a foot-planted-on-the-floor and let the aero take care of things sort of turn.
While Italian driver Ronnie Quintarelli drove the Motul GT-R in Saturday’s race, coming in 7th, it was his teammate Masataka Yanagida that was at the wheel on Sunday…
… a little off pace and finishing up in runner-up position.
Yes, it’s yet another HSV-101 image, but can you really blame me?
Thankfully, before the 22-laps were over I managed to jump on a media shuttle and make it to the back section of the track, to the chicane before cars back off the throttle…
… and shoot off big balls of fire, before going on to tackle the Netz corner.
Kazuya Oshima took the win on board the Eneos Sustina SC430 with Nakajima in the Petronas Toms SC in second spot and Braziliain driver João Paulo Lima De Oliveira in the flaming Calsonic GT-R in third.
I hope you enjoyed the action so far – it’s over to the pits next to see some of these GT500 and GT300 cars in more detail!