Super GTs At Sepang, June 24
© Janos Wimpffen
Welcome back to the1999-vintage state-of-the-art
15-corner, 8-straight, 5.543-kilometer circuit near the equator.
This is the sixth running of a Japan / Super GT race here, although
the first race in 2000 was an exhibition event and not a full qualifying
round. Unfortunately, there’s no homegrown entry this year.
A Proton built Lotus did run in 2005.
This is qualifying day in Malaysia. The Super GT
series uses a “Super Lap” system. This morning, from
11-12, all the cars are welcome to take to the circuit, GT300 first
and then the faster GT500 cars. Their times will be used to select
the top ten in each class who will matriculate to the Super Lap
period that begins at 16:00. FYI, we’re seven hours ahead
of the UK, six ahead of the Continent and 15 ahead of where I live
where it’s still yesterday—although my brain is stuck
somewhere in February while my mobile keeps giving me French time
markers and messages from Bangkok.
Each of the top cars will have the circuit to themselves
during the Super Lap and the quicker of two flying laps will be
used to set the final grid. Cars 13-n in each class will start behind
the top 12 regardless of whether their morning times were quicker
than any of the Super Lap cars. GT500 cars are always gridded ahead
of GT300 and the start is conducted in split groups.
This last point is relevant because of the continually
changing conditions here. The air temperature is a fair amount lower
today (mid-20s) but the humidity, as always, is high enough to rust
an iron stove in an hour or so. We’ve already had some spits
of rain and expect a few bursts during the day, but probably nothing
lengthy. So timing means everything here today and presumably tomorrow.
Ichijo Suga in the purported Boxster happens to
be the first car to complete a flying lap, but his 2:10.698 will
likely be eclipsed. Two laps later Suga tries to improve on this,
only to execute a long, languid and easy to overcome spin. This
only served to encourage him, and the Porsche driver reset fast
lap with a 2:09.674. Hiroki Katoh in the unique Shiden is about
three-tenths behind him.
After about 6-7 minutes of the 20-minute session
the order settled down to Tetsuya Yamano leading in the No. 7 Mazda—quite
an accomplishment for the now rather aged car, then the Shiden and
the Boxster. Behind them came Koji Matsuda in the No. 19 Celica
and No, 96 Team Nova Nissan. The last named was driven by Takuya,
oldest of four racing Kurosawa brothers. The youngest is his co-driver,
The GT500s took to the track for twenty minutes
on their own and Ralph Firman jumped to the front with a 1:58.642
in the No. 8 works NSX. Then came Benoit Treluyer in the Team Impul
Nissan Z and Ryo Michigami in the other works Honda, about a second
behind the much closer times of the top two.
Firman and Treluyer both handed over to their co-drivers
and both cars kept their 1-2 order. Behind them Michael Krumm edged
forward to third place with the No. 22 Nismo Nissan and then Yuji
Tachikawa in the No. 1 Team Cerumo Lexus. Thus we had all three
of the Japanese giants represented at the top.
The last twenty
minutes of the hour sees both classes on track. The day-glo red
No. 8 Honda’s speed set earlier on continues to be the mark
to beat. Loic Duval in the No. 32 Nakajima Racing NSX tried to break
into the top 10 but his late session charge fell short and Erik
Comas is safe in the last Super Lap spot with No. 24 Nissan 350Z.
fast lap in the No. 110 Porsche was later cancelled because of avoidable
contact with the Shiden (below), dropping the Boxster to 9th on
the provisional grid.
Here are the
times from this morning:
1 8 Honda NSX Honda Ralph Firman 1:58.642
2 12 Nissan 350Z Impul Benoit Treluyer 1:58.849
3 22 Nissan 350Z Nismo Michael Krumm 1:58.990
4 1 Lexus SC Cerumo Yuji Tachikawa 1:59.554
5 36 Lexus SC Tom’s Andre Lotterer 1:59.677
6 18 Honda NSX Honda Ryo Michigami 1:59.781
7 3 Nissan 350Z Hasemi Joao Paolo Lima de Oliveira 1:59.942
8 23 Nissan 350Z Nismo Satoshi Motoyama 2:00.132
9 100 Honda NSX Kunimitsu Sebastien Philippe 2:00.247
10 24 Nissan 350Z Kondo Eric Comas 2:00.430
11 32 Honda NSX Nakajima Loic Duval 2:00.463
12 6 Lexus SC Le Mans Tatsuya Kataoka 2:00.509
13 25 Toyota Supra Tsuchiya Takeshi Tsuchiya 2:00.773
14 66 Toyota Supra Sard Andre Cuoto 2:03.872 (below)
15 35 Lexus SC Kraft Naoki Hattori 2:01.802
1 7 Mazda RX-7 Re Amemiya Tetsuya Yamano 2:09.674
2 2 Shiden Dream 28 Hiroki Katoh 2:09.965
3 19 Toyota Celica Bandoh Shigekazu Wakisaka 2:10.036
4 96 Vemac Nova Takuya Kurosawa 2:10.113
5 55 Ford GT DHG Hidetoshi Mitsusada 2:10.369
6 27 Vemac Direxiv Nobuteru Taniguchi 2:10.394
7 13 Nissan 350Z Endless Masami Kageyama 2:10.556
8 14 Porsche 996 Endless Mitsuhiro Kinoshita 2:10.609
9 110 Porsche Boxster Arktech Hideshi Matsuda 2:10.688
10 11 Ferrari 360 Jim Gainer Tetsuya Tanaka 2:10.713
11 62 Vemac Willcom Shinsuke Shibahara 2:10.763
12 5 Vemac Mach Tetsuji Tamanaka 2:10.821
13 101 Toyota MR-S* apr Shinichi Takagi 2:10.906
14 47 Nissan 350Z Mola Hironobu Yasuda 2:11.026
15 46 Nissan 350Z Mola Kota Sasaki 2:11.293
16 777 Toyota MR-S* Ryozanpaku Kazuya Oshima 2:11.563
17 10 Ferrari 360 Jim Gainer Maofumi Omoto 2:11.985
18 910 Porsche 996 910 Racing Tadao Uematsu 2:12.121
19 70 Porsche 996 Gaikokuya Akira Hirakawa 2:13.995
20 666 Honda NSX Dream 28 Junichirou Yamashita 2:14.171
*The two MR-S had previously run with turbos but
have shed those four-cylinder units to run V6 naturally aspirated
The Malaysian Super Series round was held in the
early afternoon. The feature race was a 10 lap sprint for GTs and
Touring cars in the Supercar, Supersixteen, and Super Saloon categories.
It was won by Dilantha Malagamuwa. He should be familiar to many
as a former Mosler driver in the Grand Am and the Japanese GT series.
Sri Lanka’s foremost driver won here with a Porsche 996. Six
seconds behind was a Mitsubishi Lancer piloted by Chong Fu Seong.
A couple of RX-7s, another Porsche or two, a Nissan Skyline and
more Mitsubishis rounded out the premier Supercar class. Both the
Supersixteen (as in 16-valves) and the Super Saloon categories consisted
of a mix of Honda Civics and some Proton Satrias.
The afternoon Super Lap session is treated with
considerable deference—almost a race unto itself. First there
is a 15-minute semi-qualifier for the GT300s, then another for the
GT500 class. By semi-qualifier, I mean that these times are not
used for grid placement above tenth in each class. The rules require
each driver to have set an adequate qualifying time. Thus any second
drivers left over from this morning’s official period can
set their time.
Once these preliminaries are over, the non-candidates
(positions 11 and below) retire to their garages. Finally the Super
Lap cars with their designated “Attack Driver”—I
didn’t make that up--goes out for a flying lap. There are
actually three timed laps for each car, a warm-up, the “biggie,”
and the cool down. The last is meaningless but the warm-up can be
a precursor to the car’s final result. The GT300s cycle through
this first and then we do it all over again for the GT500.
There had been the requisite brief rain of the day,
coinciding with an interim between support races. Now there is a
stiff southwesterly breeze that is drying the circuit and not bringing
any more rain with it for the afternoon. However, it appears that
there are enough slippy spots to call for caution, at least while
the first cars are out there.
One car hit a spot of bother during this last session.
Joao de Oliveira landed in the gravel with the No. 3 Z. It will
be a challenge to vacuum out all those panels before it’s
his turn to go. For the record, the fast cars in each class during
this tune-up period were Treluyer’s Nissan in GT500 at 2:00.629
and Tetsuya Yamano again quickest in GT300 with a 2:11.327 in the
lone Mazda. Clearly, no one was really pushing it in this period.
The cars go out in reverse order of times so Tetsuya
Tanaka of the No. 11 Ferrari is the first to go solo. He records
a 2:17.765 on his first lap and then settles for 2:11.296 the next
time around. It will be good for no worse than 10th on the GT300
grid, although it would place him well down the field if this morning’s
time were taken into consideration.
Next to attack is Ichio Suga in the blue Boxster.
His 2:12.812 already shows potential and the follow-up 2:10.810
gives him the provisional class pole. Before the preceding driver
completes his flyer, the next car is already released. Third one
out is Mitsuhiro Kinoshita in the far more convential No. 14 Porsche,
although his initial warm-up lap of 2:222.49 is far off the mark.
Kinoshita responds with a 2:11.119, slotting him ahead of Tanaka.
Fourth car up is the No. 13 Nissan, driven by Masami
Kageyama—and again there is a long wait. His 2:17.482 was
followed by a 2:10.090, capturing the provisional pole. This one
at a time system on such an expansive course is not exactly nail-biting
stuff for the small fry, rather like watching a lengthy drama unfold—at
least it’s easy to follow. It gets much more exciting during
the GT500 period.
Nobuteru Taniguchi completes the first half of the
GT300 runners in the No. 27 Vemac. He recorded the best opening
lap at 2:11.906, but then spun and narrowly was able to keep going
on the supposed flyer. He recovers to a 2:17.801, not bad considering,
but definitely at the bottom.
The dramatic Ford is next up with Hidetoshi Mitsusada
aboard. His V8 rumbles past at 2:17.124 and then a 2:10.694—ranking
him second. Another Vemac is next, the elder Kurosawa in No. 96.
He’s off the pace on the first lap but answers with a 2:11.184,
bumping him to fifth.
Shigekazu Wakisaka, third fastest in class this
morning, is chosen to drive the No. 19 Toyota Celica and records
a good 2:11.673 the first time past.
The distinctive Shiden is next (dare I say that
it looks a DP?). The ex-Panoz man, Hiroki Katoh, takes it to a good
2:12.700 the first time but follows it with a very special 2:08.692,
the class pole whether considering either the morning or afternoon
Finally, it’s Tetsuya Yamano’s turn
to try and convert his provisional GT300 pole into the real one.
By now he has probably heard about Katoh’s effort before him.
His relatively slow opener of 2:14.596 does not bode well. One can
clearly hear the rotary’s wine out on the long back straight.
Yamano swings back to the front but doesn’t quite have enough
to hold onto the spot. His 2:10.222 will only be good enough for
third in class
After a five-minute
break in proceedings, GT500 qualifying starts with Erik Comas in
the No. 24 Kondo Racing Nissan. His opener is 2:01.169 and then
a 2:03.169 for the obvious provisional pole. It remains dry although
the thick overcast has led to several drivers turning on their lights.
No. 100 Honda NSX, opens with a good 2:01.635 and a truly fine :00.392—possibly
the best lap we’ll see today.
Satoshi Motoyama, No. 23 Nismo Z, records a cautious
2:09.243 but he closes the gap through each split and his next is
ably competitive at 2:00.436—good for second overall.
Joao Paolo Lime de Oliveira, with the cleaned-up
Yellow Hat No. 3 Nissan does a 2:06.210 and then really turns it
on—matching or beating most of the split times. However, there
was just a few meters to much track for him and has to settle for
second spot with a 2:00.410.
Ryo Michigami begins the star power side of the
field with the No. 18 Team Honda NSX. But his 2:01.100 is only fourth
fastest, displacing Comas.
No. 36 Lexus (below), shows that he is a threat with a 2:03..72
warm-up lap. The potential is very real as his 1:59.693 is the new
Yuji Tachikawa, No. 1 Lexus, looking every bit the
luxury racer, comes through at 2:00.963 and then at a scintillating
1:59.228. The bar is once more reset.
Michael Krumm, No. 22 Nissan, has an opener of 2:00.391,
the best yet by far. His first sector time then is a half-second
quicker than Tachikawa. It’s the only intermediate recording
and at the line he beats the Lexus by 0.434 to set pole at 1:58.794
Two cars remain.
Benoit Treluyer, No. 12, Team Impul Nissan, opens with a 2:00.292.
He then puts a wheel off a turn or two before the first sector mark,
yet returns a time equal to the thousandths with the leader. But
it appears that there was some momentum lost and he ends up a half
second down, only good for third.
is Honda’s last hope. The No. 8 NSX starts with a 1:59.359,
the first sub-two-minute warm-up lap. Then he’s a full six-tenths
clear of Krumm at the split. Firman is stronger yet and finishes
the session with the definitive pole at 1:57.866.