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WILL NSX ACCOMPLISH 8 STRAIGHT MOTEGI WIN?

12 September 2008
On 13 and 14 September, Twin Ring Motegi will host Round 7 of the Super GT, Motegi GT 300km race. Only three races left in the 2008 Super GT Calendar, every race from here on will be crucial for all teams, and consequently, battles on the track will get hotter than ever as teams not only try to win the race, but also to fiercely grab more points than their opponents.

The battle between the teams will begin from Saturday’s ‘knock-out’ qualifying system (implemented at Motegi again following last year’s introduction). Although principles remain, this year’s knock-out qualifying system went through a few changes as both drivers of a team must participate in the qualifying session.

Known as “Stop-and-Go” circuit, Twin Ring Motegi has many short straights and long perimeter corners which necessitate cars to accelerate and rapidly decelerate a corner after a corner. Overtaking would be a difficult task on such a circuit which increases the importance of where to start the race. Indeed, qualifying practice will be more important compare to other circuits.The crucial qualifying in Motegi will adopt “Knock-out” system again this year after last year’s introduction instead of SUPER GT’s usual system, “Super Lap.” The Knock-out qualifying system will be applied to the second qualifying practice where the practice will be divided in three sessions. Each session will be timed separately and, in order to proceed to the second and third sessions, cars need to be in predefined range of positions in the first session. Any cars that failed to be in the range will not be proceeding to the next session and will start the race from the position where they ended up in the session. Another words, drivers need to push away (or knock-out) rivals three times to get top positions on the grid.

The procedure up to this point is the same as that of last year’s, but the rule has been changed which has increased the level of difficulty! The modification prohibits one driver to run in all three sessions. The second driver is also required to drive in at least one of the three sessions. What’s making it difficult for teams is that if their second driver gets on the car in the first session and gets knocked-out, the first driver, usually faster in the qualifying than his teammate, will never have a chance to give a single shot at the qualifying practice.

On the other hand, even though the first driver gets behind the wheel for the first and second session and be successful in proceeding to subsequent sessions, he has to let his partner to drive in the third session where top positions on the starting grids are decided. Both drivers, not just one, are challenged for their ability as a racing driver. Team managers need to make strategic decision on which of his drivers will drive in which session. Teams must show comprehensive strength in qualifying, just like they do to compete in SUPER GT. The excitements start from qualifying practice on Saturday at the Round 7 in Motegi.

Let’s look at the forecast of the race. Needless to go into detail that Twin Ring Motegi is the home track of Honda. It is most favored by, who else, Honda NSX with 7 consecutive victories up to this year. So, it is only natural to pick NSX as the top favorite.Out of all NSXs, No. 17 REAL NSX (Katsutomo Kaneishi / Toshihiro Kaneishi, right) and No. 32 EPSON NSX (Loic Duval / Katsuyuki Hiranaka,below) look strong for Motegi.

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Both cars have no handicap weights. For Katsutomo Kaneishi who has also been assigned as a developmental test driver for NSX, Motegi is like his own back yard. Toshihiro Kaneishi has always been successful at Motegi too.NAKJIMA RACING, who fields EPSON NSX in SUPER GT, also favors the track, having won multiple times in SUPER GT as well as in Formula races.

Afore mentioned two NSXs and No. 1 ARTA NSX (Ralph Firman / Takuya Izawa), who has been unsuccessful in getting satisfying result despite good runs in the race, would be the most favorites for Motegi.
For GT-Rs and SC430s, No.3 YellowHat YMS TOMICA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli / Naoki Yokomizo, right) and No.35 houzan KRAFT SC430 (Peter Dumbreck / Tatsuya Kataoka), both with no handicap weights, may show a strong race on the track at Motegi.Being the only winless team out of three GT-R teams, No. 3 YellowHat must be keen to snatch a win at Motegi.

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All the points earned from this 7th round to the final round will be valid and accumulated for the point ranking. For the first 6 races, any of two races with lowest points earned will be dropped and not counted into the point ranking, so teams can give up a race with no points earned as a “sacrifice race.” But from Motegi and on, zero point race would be definitely be a serious blow for teams contending for the series title.Consequently, teams with heavy handicap weights would want to grab as many points as possible, but, of course, more points would mean more handicap weights in the next round. Teams need to decide whether they should aim and try to get the highest finish as possible despite the handicap weight they need to carry in the next round in Autopolis or pick a track that most advantageous to them and save their strength at Motegi for the favorite track.

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It would be interesting to see what kind of strategies will No. 18 TAKATA DOME NSX (Ryo Michigami / Takashi Kogure), No. 23 XANAVI NISMO GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama / Benoit Treluyer), and No.36 PETRONAS TOM’S SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka / Andre Lotterer, right) pull off.Above all, No.38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa / Richard Lyons) has lesser handicap weight among the top ranking teams at 35kg.

Depending on where the latter mentioned four teams position in the race, afore mentioned three teams may even go ahead and dramatically change their overall strategy for the rest of the season during the race at Motegi. Motegi will require a careful attention not only who will cross the finish line first but where top ranking teams position themselves on the result. 

PORSCHE, VEMAC & IMPREZA BATTLES FOR GT300 VICTORY 

The story is no different for GT300. Top rankers have to carry heavy handicap weight on their car at Motegi. Especially, the winner of the previous race in Suzuka No.46 MOLA LEOPALACE Z (Kazuki Hoshino / Hironobu Yasuda) will need to load 100kg on their car. No.43 ARTA Garaiya (Morio Nitta / Shinich Takagi), No.7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 (Hiroyuki Iiri / Ryo Orime), and No.95 Lightning McQueen apr MR-S (Kohei Hirate / Keisuke Kunimoto) will probably draw a comprehensive strategy for the remaining part of the season before coming in to Motegi and race the Motegi round accordingly to the predefined plan.
Then, who could the winner be at Motegi? Most likely, it would be No.77 CUSCO DUNLOP SUBARU IMPREZA (Tetsuya Yamano / Kouta Sasaki) with the least handicap weight among the top ranking teams at 30kg.Since Impreza suits well to the racing course at Motegi, the team is likely to go for the points and for a win rather than minding about how much more of handicap weight they have to carry at remaining races.

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Another machine that has always been showing impressive results at Motegi is Porsche GT3R. Among them, No. 26 YUNKER POWER TAISAN PORSCHE (Nobuteru Taniguchi / Shinichi Yamaji,left) started from second position and went on to win the race last year.They may be more enthusiastic because if they succeed in winning the race, that will bring them back a chance to clinch the series title.

Looking at other possibilities, midengined Vemac has machine characteristics that suit the track at Motegi. Similarly, the newcomer of the season IS350 is also a midengined machine. The two deserves attention as to see how they manage their way up in the race.Another car that needs attention is No. 808 Hatsune Miku Studie GLAD BMW Z4 (Yasushi Kikuchi / Shozo Tagahara), whose debut run was anticipated at the previous event in Suzuka but was washed away due to inadequacy of the car. They should be coming in to Motegi well prepared to show its run on the track. Not only the car is the famous “Itasha,” but it would be the first appearance of a BMW since 2003. Now, this is really a something that provides excitements to all kinds of fan.

Super GT: WILL NSX ACCOMPLISH 8 STRAIGHT MOTEGI WIN?