Postcard from Super Taikyu 2012 Autopolis: Racing in a Cloud

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

I have shot in wet weather, but I’ve never encountered fog at a track before.

The weekend at Autopolis – that is located somewhere in the highlands – for the sixth and final round of the Super Taikyu Series felt like we were all going racing in a cloud.

The fog hung low…

… and the whole circuit was literally engulfed in a cloud.

I went out on track for the morning warm-up session, hoping to get some shots of cars emerging from the fog.

However, the conditions were too poor and the session got cancelled.

I couldn’t even see past the next pit.

There was some time to go before the race start and the pit walk for the spectators went on as scheduled.

Some of the race queens were all bundled up and posing for pictures…

…while others were busy trying to not get blown away.

There were some who were dressed per normal and I could almost hear their teeth chattering as they brave the cold with their bare skin.

A separate pit walk for kids saw some really happy little ones who were obviously bundled up snugly by their parents.

By the time race start rolled around, the weather was still not improving. From the media centre on the third level of the pit building I could not even see the opposite side of the main straight.

Finally, the race that was scheduled for 1.00 pm (local time) was postponed to 2.30pm. The initial three-hour duration of the race was also changed to two hours.

Some drivers felt that it is too dangerous for the race to go on as visibility was seriously limited, but the race went on anyway.

Race queens took their positions on the grid as the cars lined up in order of their qualifying. In pole position was the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28 and their Kiwi driver Jono Lester was starting for them.

Lining up behind the safety car, the race started promptly on the re-scheduled time and I rushed to the first corner to catch the start while the cars went off on their formation lap.

I arrived at the first corner quite late but I managed to find a spot in the Turn One Club of photographers thankfully.

The thing is, we could hear the cars coming but we couldn’t see them until a lot later.

In this photo above, I lightened the photo so you could see some silhouette of the cars but in reality, all we could see were the headlights. This was my spot at Turn 1 taken with my mobile phone and you faintly make out the headlights in the distance? That was how bad it was!

Hence I wonder how the cars can go racing if we can barely see them go round the corner.

The race started behind the safety car under yellow flags and it stayed with the cars lap after lap, leaving us wondering when the racing will begin.

The safety car did go in after a long while and cars started picking up speed as well as courage, but soon enough the safety car was deployed again.

The cars just went round and round the track behind the safety car again. It got a bit confusing with the positions of the cars changing while still behind the safety car, because cars were taking chances on their pit stops, not knowing when the safety car will go back in but still having to fulfill their mandatory two pit stops.

Rain started to fall as well, adding more gloom to the atmosphere.

The safety car did go back in and cars went flying (though with precaution due to the wet and fog)..

… but the safety car came back almost as quickly as it went back in. -_-”

Once again round and round behind the safety car, the race was eventually red-flagged at the 90-minute mark.

 Since that marked 75% of the race completed, points were awarded and positions were recorded.

The PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #1 was in second place behind Team Mach GoGoGo’s Ferrari 458 GT3 #555, while their twin SLS was in fourth behind the Threebond Nissan Technical College GT-R GT3 #24.

Although the outcome of this race did not affect the championship standings for car #1 which has already clinched the overall title after the previous round in Suzuka, the team couldn’t help feeling disappointed, especially for their sister car #28 which was hoping to translate the pole position into a win.

I was bundled up well in my battle against the wet and the fog but I’m not a fan of being wrapped in so much plastic.

The days leading up to race day was fine though – the sun shone bright and the track was bone-dry. I remember I was commenting on the blue skies!

I arrived at the track on Thursday and I followed some of the boys from PETRONAS Syntium Team on their track walk.

The four of them – from L-R: Dominic Ang, Jono Lester, Melvin Moh and Ryan Ritchie – have never driven on this track before. While they were discussing racing lines, I was checking out photo spots with Larry Chen of Speedhunters who was shooting there that weekend too.

The track at Autopolis is pretty hilly with lots of ups and downs, leaving me panting slightly at the end of the walk.

Friday was just practice, with three one-hour sessions that were shared among the three drivers per car.

The Japanese drivers of the PETRONAS Syntium Team (ie. Nobuteru Taniguchi, Masataka Yanagida and Tatsuya Kataoka) are not unfamiliar with the track so they gave more seat time to the others.

This is my second time at Autopolis but the last time I was here I didn’t explore the track, so it was starting anew for me as well. Between Larry and I, we managed to seek out some good photo points and I even got to try his crazy-heavy 400mm telephoto lens. The next few shots were taken with the 400mm, sick right?

Each time those little Toyota Yarises come round the corner, I fear for them. Thank goodness none of them rolled over.

The GT-R, which has college students as part of their crew in an interesting collaboration, was pretty competitive in practice but ran into trouble during qualifying.

Saturday’s qualifying went smoothly for the PETRONAS Syntium Team with the usual Driver A, Driver B and Driver C sessions, where the grid positions for the race were determined by the fastest combined times of Driver A and Driver B.

The PETRONAS Syntium Team’s twin SLS AMG GT3 cars qualified first and second, with Yanagida and Lester of car #28 pushing the fastest times in their respective Driver A and B sessions.

The drivers of car #28 were clearly very happy after qualifying, confident of beating car #1.

Alas, the weather worked against them and it was the car led by Taniguchi who finished ahead of the two SLSes.

Some feel that the race wasn’t much of a race, since it was mostly follow-the-safety-car.

The PETRONAS Syntium Team did not end the season how they would have liked to, but at least their goal for the year was achieved. This year’s overall Super Taikyu title makes it their fifth consecutive one. 

Done with the rubber eating for the season, see you next year Japan!

View the rest of my Super Taikyu 2012 Round 6 photos here.

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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