While most people are planning for a much-needed break this long weekend (National Day and Hari Raya), I will be down at Fuji Speedway covering the seven-hour race of the Super Taikyu Series 2013 Round 4.
It’s only been three weeks since the last round of the Series, held at Twin Ring Motegi.
Twin Ring Motegi (ツインリンクもてぎ) got its name from having two race tracks: a 2.493-kilometre oval and a 4.801-kilometre road course. It was built in 1997 by Honda, as part of Honda’s effort to bring the IndyCar Series (hence the oval track) to Japan, helping to increase their knowledge of American open-wheel racing. Honda fans would be delighted to visit the Honda Collection Hall, a museum totally dedicated for Honda vehicles (read about my first visit to the Honda Collection Hall here).
Round 3 of the Super Taikyu Series 2013 was a five-hour race on the Motegi road course and the weather in Japan was just as hot (not as humid) as Singapore.
Every morning I was greeted with beautiful weather like that – but it would get really bright and warm as the day went on.
I remember the Motegi circuit fondly, partly because of the Gran Turismo Cafe! Every track has a cafe of some sort and this one is particularly memorable because it has the Gran Turismo simulators which you can have a go at after you’re done with lunch.
I also like to browse the little souvenir corner in the cafe, where it is filled with all kinds of Honda memorabilia!
I’ve always liked the Japanese for their packaging and see what interesting Motegi cookies they had!
There was also an extensive section on Super GT merchandise…
… and I just had to buy the GSR Hatsune Miku Super GT 2012 BMW diecast model so I could get Nobuteru Taniguchi (aka No One Better) and Tatsuya Kataoka (aka TK Panda) to autograph it! Both of them drive for the PETRONAS Syntium Team in Super Taikyu.
Practice was held on Friday, before qualifying on Saturday. Qualifying for Super Taikyu basically consists of three sessions – Driver A, Driver B and Driver C. Each driver goes out for 15 minutes to get his fastest lap and the overall qualifying results will be based on the total time of the fastest times from Drivers A and B.
The Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R #24 and the GTNet Nissan GT-R #81 had blistering pace and their outright speed pushed the two SLS AMG GT3 cars into the second row of the grid. Fariqe Hairuman and Jono Lester qualified the SLS AMG GT3 #28 in third, while Melvin Moh and Dominic Ang qualified car #1 in fourth.
Confidence ran high in the team despite starting the race from the second row on the grid. Pole-sitter Nissan GT-R #24 had a problem and had to start from the pit lane, but the Endless Advan Porsche 997 #3 got a good start and managed to get into P2 ahead of the SLS AMG GT3 cars after the first corner.
As the first stint progressed, it became a three-way battle for the lead between Jono in the SLS AMG GT3 #28, the GT-R #81 and the Porsche #3. Dominic was running in fourth in the SLS AMG GT3 #1 when the safety car was deployed, bringing the field back together.
Shortly after the restart, the Porsche #3 managed to overtake the GT-R #81 for the lead, leaving Jono to chase the GT-R for second place. Jono and the GT-R came into the pits together for the first driver change, but it was the SLS AMG GT3 #28 that exited first, with Fariqe at the wheel. Hunting down the race leader Porsche #3, Fariqe overtook it for the lead after 60 laps. Meanwhile, Melvin took over the driving duties from Dominic and tried to chase the race leaders.
Retaining the lead after the second driver change, Kataoka drove well to widen the gap from the rest of the field. Taniguchi faced a little delay during the takeover from Melvin, but managed to catch up with the Porsche #3 and take third place behind the GT-R #81. Before he handed the car back to Dominic for the final drive, he had already gotten the SLS AMG GT3 #1 into second place.
Getting back into the SLS AMG GT3 #28 for the last stint, Jono pulled ahead with the lead, gunning for the chequered flag. With a 30-second gap between the two SLS AMG GT3 cars, Dominic tried his best to catch up, while making sure he did not allow the next car to come close.
Everything was running smoothly until the last four minutes of the race when Jono experienced extreme brake wear at 245km/h and spun off the track.
Fortunately he got back on track and managed to resume the race, finishing second behind his team-mate in #1. Jono was clearly disappointed, having victory snatched from him in the dying minutes of the race.
Although the win was given to car #1, the drivers couldn’t feel entirely overjoyed about it as they felt that the victory belonged to their sister car #28.
After this round, both the SLS AMG GT3 cars #1 and #28 are in a joint lead for the championship, with four more rounds to go.
The next round will be this weekend at Fuji Speedway where I am now!
Btw, if you are wondering what are some of the cars the racing drivers own, this is what Taniguchi drove to Motegi:
The GT-Rs are definitely very quick this season and the SLS AMG GT3 cars from the PETRONAS Syntium Team may not be able to secure pole position as often and as easily as they used to, but having the speed in qualifying is not enough as an endurance race is about knowing how to stay consistent from the start to the end.
Let’s see how it goes this weekend!