The MOTEGI GT 250km RACE, Round 8 (final round) of the 2015 AUTOBACS JAPANESE SUPER GT series, was held at the Twin Ring Motegi in Tochigi Pref. on November 15. In tricky conditions with the track wet in the early stages and dry in the latter half, in the GT500 class the race winner was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (Andrea Caldarelli/Ryo Hirakawa), and the GT300 class winner was the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama). Both teams won their respective races starting from pole position.
The GT500 class Drivers Championship title went to the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driver pair of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli when they managed to place 2nd in the race, ahead of the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R that finished 4th, while the Team Championship title went to the No. 1 NISMO team, both for the second year in a row.
KeePer TOM’S RC F leads despite confusion caused by sudden rain before the start.
After the morning free practice that was run in completely wet conditions, the rain stopped at about 11:00 and the track condition began to improve. Since there had been no opportunities for the teams to run on slick tire up until this point in the race weekend, the usual 8-minute warm-up period was extended to 18 minutes. After initially taking to the track on rain tires, all of the teams returned their cars to the pits to change to slick tires. By the time the machines were lined up on the grid, a good number of them were on slick tires. But, about 30 minutes before the start, rain began to fall again, making the track completely wet-condition once again. As a result, all of the cars started the race on rain tires.
At 1:40 in the afternoon, two patrol cars of the Tochigi Prefectural Police, one Honda NSX and one Nissan Fairlady Z led a parade of the race machines for one lap, and then the race cars entered directly into the formation lap as planned. By this time the rain had stopped completely. After the one lap in formation, the race was finally underway.
From pole position, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (Andrea Caldarelli) got the hole shot, with the No. 64 Epson NSX CONCEPT-GT (Bertrand Baguette) following close behind. Behind these two came a group led by the No. 1
00 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT (Naoki Yamamoto) with the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO RC F (Yuji Tachikawa), No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo Lima De Oliveira) and the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM’S RC F (James Rossiter) in tow. But, with the two lead cars running laps in the 1’50 range, a gap gradually began to open up between them and the group vying for 3rd place.
Among this group from 3rd down, the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM’S RC F suddenly slowed down on the straight of the tenth lap and came to a stop near the pit lane exit. This marked an early end to the race for car No. 36. This allowed the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) to move into 6th position. This raised expectations for the sight of a battle with its championship rival, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, but at this point there was still a 15-second gap between the two cars and it would be some time before they could compete directly against each other.
Although all of the cars had started out on rain tire, by the time of the parade lap there were already patches of blue appearing in the skies overhead and spreading quickly. With the sunlight now shining through was not as strong as in summer and the temperature still low, the track was not drying out as quickly as one might expect, but it was nonetheless only a matter of time before the track would be dry. So, some teams began to return to the pit at the earliest allowable time for a driver change (the 18th lap of the 53-lap 250 km race). At the end of the 19th lap, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F (Kazuya Oshima>Yuji Kunimoto) made its routine pit stop. On the 20th lap, so did the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida>Satoshi Motoyama) and the No.24 D’station ADVAN GT-R (Michael Krumm>Daiki Sasaki), followed by the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO RC F (Yuji Tachikawa>Hiroaki Ishiura) on the 22th lap and the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (Ryo Hirakawa) and No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT on the 23rd lap. Each of these teams took just over 40 seconds to complete their pit stops and start back to the race.
On the 24th lap the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R made its routine pit stop and managed a fast restart in just 36 seconds, but then on the 25th lap the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R completed its pit stop in just 33 seconds. Car No. 1 returned to the track just in front of the nose of the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT that had come down the home straight after passing the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R in the hairpin of the lap.
Tight competition follows a race restart! KeePer RC F and MOTUL GT-R stage a big battle.
At this point in the race, the No. 64 Epson NSX CONCEPT-GT (Baguette) that had not yet made its routine pit stop was leading the race with more than a 1-minute lead over 2nd place, although it still had to make its pit stop. Locked in a close battle for that 2nd place spot were the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda), the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT (Takuya Izawa) and the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda).
All attention focused on where the No. 64 Epson NSX CONCEPT-GT would reenter the race after finishing its routine pit stop, but just then a game-changing happening took place. The No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R that had made an early pit stop and returned to the race on dry-use tires, had a collision with a back marker (GT300 machine) while trying to overtake it, causing heavy damage to the rear of the machine and sending parts scattered around the track. This brought out the Safety Car (SC). This proved to be an unlucky break in the action for the No. 64 Epson NSX CONCEPT-GT that had been running so strongly with a big lead. In a moment’s time, the lead of over one minute that it had built up before the routine pit stop vanished completely.
At the end of the 31st lap, the SC returned to the pit road and the race was restarted. Besides the cars from eighth position downward that were effectively one lap behind considering the pit stop time, at this point seven cars, led by the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (Ryo Hirakawa) and followed by the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT, No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, No. 38 ZENT CERUMO RC F, No. 15 Drago Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT and the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F, were all bunched at the front within a space of less than one second in track time. This effectively turned the last 20 laps of the race into a sprint race. What’s more, included in the seven cars were all four of the teams that still had a chance to win the season title. This meant that they would be fighting fiercely to improve their place in the finishing order as much as possible.
At the first corner after the restart, the leading No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F made the potentially devastating mistake of over-running the turn. This put the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R in the lead. Shortly after taking the lead, however, the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R came up behind a string of GT300 back markers, giving the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F a chance to retake the lead. On the “V” corner of the 41st lap, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F finally succeeded in retaking the lead. But, soon it was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F’s turn to contend with back markers. This allowed the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and the cars behind it to catch up and resume a group battle for the lead that thrill the spectators in the stands.
Still, it remained a battle in which no car was able to make a decisive move, and all the way to the end it was a “sprint race” in which the order of the top four remained unchanged. Holding strongly onto the lead, Hirakawa brought the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F home to its second victory of the season. The No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, giving one team each from the three makers a spot on the podium. The No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R ended up in 4th place.
These results gave the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R drivers Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli the season’s Driver Championship title and their No. 1 NISMO team the Team Championship for the GT500.