The Last Race: Super GT Fuji Sprint Cup
The line up

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…

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… 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…

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… 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.

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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…

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… I’ll just leave you with a couple of images of this impressive machine…

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… 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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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… 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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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True passion right here!

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With time available  on the straight coming to an end, I grabbed a last few couple of shots…

The GT300 sprint race
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… 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..

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… it’s the action I want to concentrate on first.

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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.

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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…

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… 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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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…

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… so this may well be the last time their 997 GT3-R was out in action.

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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…

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… 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.

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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?

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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.

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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
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… 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.

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This is where Honda, Nissan and Toyota battled it out for the last time in Super GT guise.

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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.

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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…

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…the Arta car probably exhibiting the most photogenic livery of the lot.

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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.

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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…

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… a little off pace and finishing up in runner-up position.

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Yes, it’s yet another HSV-101 image, but can you really blame me?

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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…

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… and shoot off big balls of fire, before going on to tackle the Netz corner.

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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!

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38 comments

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1

BRZ pictures. You know who loves you!

2

Man I still wished Honda produced the road going version of the HSV. Beautiful car that should really be the NSX successor instead.

3

why don't they run both classes on track at the same time?

4
speedhunters_dino

XLStress Agree! Or a limited edition car like what Lexus did with the LFA

5
speedhunters_dino

bezwick They do for the regular rounds, but this was the Sprint Cup so it's by class only, short races, no pit stops no driver changes

6

JGTC/Super GT has long been in my top 5 of "race series I have to see live", please keep this articles coming!

7
speedhunters_dino

tbtstt I will do my best :) Let's hope it will be just as cool next year. We should be seeing the 2014 GT500 GT-R this Sunday at the Nismo Festival so I will investigate if they allow us to get close to it!

8

Great coverage as always Dino, i'm looking forward to some more detailed shots tomorrow.
I would love to see a road going HSV replica/silhouette, either tube framed or using a heavily modified OEM shell; the C6 greenhouse is vaguely similar. Couple that with a donor V10 from Lamborghini, BMW or possibly, though unlikely, Lexus and it would be but a few short years of clay sculpting away from the vague semblace of a road going HSV. (In theory)

9

The shot of the WedsSport SC430? #partyinmytrousers

10

Goodbye unique machinery, outlandish homologation, ground breaking aero and mechanical diversity.
Hello FIA regs.

Glad you guys covered this event, its a sad day for all motorsport fans. Looking forward to the follow up features.

11

For me personally the GT500 class is dead after this season, the new DTM rules killed all of the 20 year JGTC/Super GT history in one bad move! Only hope is that in 4 years after the FIA/DTM contract expire's they decide to go back to the old rule's.
And the thing that baffles me the most is that the cars are going to be LHD!!! I imagine the drivers will be having a hard time adapting.

12
speedhunters_dino

Verdigrie Thanks!!

13
speedhunters_dino

PaddyMcGrath lol

14
speedhunters_dino

Delta_s4 Looking forward to seeing the 2014 cars, maybe they can still retains some uniqueness, at least in their design and aero from what we've seen already

15
speedhunters_dino

@STJ Yeah it's strange but the move is an effort to promote SGT abroad more to, and mix it up with DTM. Let's see what they manage to do with it I guess

16

speedhunters_dino Fingers crossed! The change in regulations is certainly a worry for the future of the series, but DTM cars certainly aren't tame, so hopefully it won't take too much from the car design: or the racing!

17

Thanks for the great article Dino! It brings back alot of good memories when I was living in Japan and watched a JGTC in 2005. I bet you saw some pretty cool cars in the parking lot too ;)

18

speedhunters_dino if they make it right the result could be better than the old GT500 and DTM. DTM is so boring these days, having to rely on DRS systems to provoke overtaking outside the pits. And all three manufactures seem sort of ok with how the series is running, so at least I don't feel any sort of real rivalry in it. Neither does the media care for it.
But if you throw in another three car makers that our German top dogs do fear its bound to get interesting.

19

speedhunters_dino XLStress 
Funny thing is that the HSV was finished when Honda canned it! So somewhere in Japan or Germany, Honda has a few road going HSV's from the Nuremberg tests lying around.

20

speedhunters_dino Delta_s4 how could they not? the rules are there so people have something to work against. assimilate and destroy.

21

there was not nearly enough HSV in this post... ;)
My other half lives in fear I will find blueprints for one and spend the house/family/life savings fund we have on trying to build one, I mean it can't be THAT hard right?!

22

Awesome keep up the good work Dino.
p.s More posts on project gtr please.

23

gt 500 r.i.p.  the victim of globalization.  Maybe evolving to survive though I guess.  
What was the purpose of the HSV? Where they just trying to use up old formula 1 bits that would fit ?

24

speedhunters_dino tbtstt Oh you go to NIsmo festival ! I'll be there too, tomorrow I go to Japan.

25
speedhunters_dino

v8 guy Thanks V8 guy!

26
speedhunters_dino

TarmacTerrorist LOL

27
speedhunters_dino

Terencey Nothing that special in the car parks honestly but that won't be the case this weekend for the Nismo Festival!

28

Delta_s4 To be fair, the Super GT regs haven't exactly promoted mechanical diversity for a while, with the mandatory 3.4 V8s in GT500. Nor are they homologated in any way, they're essentially tube frame chassis'.  I'll happily admit there is at least diversity in the number of cars themselves though.


Part of me will be disappointed to see the DTM merger go ahead, but another part of me thinks it could be a good thing. The GT500 class in particular has somewhat lost its relevance over the past few years, in my opinion. The fact that Honda was allowed to compete with a non-production car, or the fact that this years' championship winning car (okay, silhouette) stopped production three years ago just baffles me.

29

Every car on the road should have a Hatsune Miku livery.

30

MMMmmmmm these cars are so sexy.

32

Infinite Stratos Nissan GTR GT300 SPOTTED!!!

33

next year is the DTM spec chassis, can't wait.

34

with the new dtm rules, i know that there are 3 confirmed cars... but are there more on the way?? next new feature?? its a shame i wasnt able to see jgtc/super gt in all its glory.. but i guess thats just the evolution of car racing in general. maybe we'll see KERS show up in this new series.

35

I never thought I'd say I miss Super GT series after JGTC ended, but here I am...so why DTM rules tho?

36

Really enjoyed this article; I was pulled right into Fuji by the great images and incredible machines.  Brilliant stuff Dino
p.s. Its an absolute travesty that Honda didn't roll out a road going HSV-010!

37

I guess because I'm such an American, when I read "Fuji Sprint Cup", I thought of NASCAR racing at Fuji...now that would be pretty damn cool

38

Here a good article on DTM vs Super GT.
http://www.endurance-info.com/fr/36385/

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