The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic final 12 months meant sequence organisers elected to get rid of each the Fuji 500km occasion and the summer time 500-mile race on the similar observe, with each SUPER GT race in 2020 run over the usual distance of 300 kilometres.
However in a bid to distinguish this 12 months’s Golden Week Fuji race from the season finale in November, the choice was made to increase the previous occasion to 500km, a transfer that was been welcomed by a lot of the paddock.
It means Tuesday’s contest can be run over a distance of 110 laps, as an alternative of the standard 65, and if all goes easily will final round three hours. GT500 groups must full two pitstops, slightly than only one, to have the ability to cowl the prolonged distance.
The standard minimal drive-time rule nonetheless applies: no single driver could cowl greater than two-thirds distance (on this case, 73 laps), so for two-driver crews, meaning each drivers should full a minimum of one-third distance (37 laps).
Drivers nevertheless can’t do consecutive stints, so this successfully means the beginning driver should additionally full the ultimate stint, and the second driver is entrusted with the center stint, which can’t be any shorter than 37 laps. The precise gasoline window varies per automotive, however is estimated to be not way more than 40 laps, so there’s restricted alternative to diverge on technique.
Keep in mind that in final 12 months’s Fuji finale, when TOM’S Toyota driver Ryo Hirakawa misplaced the title after operating out of gasoline exiting the ultimate nook on the ultimate lap, the group had made its pitstop on the finish of lap 23 of 65, giving itself what turned out to be an unattainable 42-lap second stint.
So, with the center stint mounted at between 37 and about 40 laps, it means there are two fundamental technique choices: shorten the primary stint, maybe to 30-32 laps, and commit to 2 lengthy stints after that, or attempt to go to round lap 40 on the opening stint, and provides your self a shorter ultimate stint.
Nissan’s Ronnie Quintarelli says the NISMO squad will seemingly be taking the latter choice, he and Tsugio Matsuda banking on the longevity of their Michelin tyres to combat for a spot on the rostrum.
“I feel for the primary two stints we are going to keep out so long as attainable and go for a brief ultimate stint, when there’s extra rubber on the observe,” stated the Italian after qualifying seventh on Monday. “That is one thing we did previously at this observe and it labored properly.
“However we have to take care of the tyres within the first and second stints. It is going to be near 40 laps, one stint. You may need an enormous drop within the final 5, 10 laps. If you are able to do sufficient laps [in the first two stints] to make the final stint simply 30 or 32 laps, that’s the most effective situation.”
#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Gas consumption may show important, particularly if it permits you to reap the benefits of a security automotive interval or the newly-introduced full-course yellow.
Actual Racing Honda driver Bertrand Baguette is definitely banking on the NSX-GT retaining its gasoline consumption benefit from final 12 months to assist claw his method up the order from eleventh on the grid.
“The utmost stint size is nevertheless far you’ll be able to go on a tank of gasoline,” stated Baguette. “Relying in your gasoline consumption perhaps the window is kind of small, and perhaps we now have an even bigger one than Toyota! That would be the solely factor we will play with and attempt to come again.”
In a 300km race, groups are likely to pit as early as attainable (or, a minimum of, as early as their gasoline mileage permits) to keep away from being caught out by the protection automotive. With the FCY now an choice for the race organisers, the prospect of getting your race completely ruined is considerably lessened, however getting your cease achieved whereas your rivals are restricted to 80km/h would nonetheless be advantageous.
That stated, the pitlane can be closed throughout a FCY simply as it’s throughout a daily security automotive interval.
Baguette is anticipating the FCY to catch some drivers out, particularly because the stewards have indicated that they won’t be hesitant to punish those that do not decelerate shortly sufficient.
“They are going to be fairly strict on it,” stated the Belgian. “If you’re not at 80km/h after they depend right down to zero, you’re going to get a penalty. In Europe they’re extra relaxed about it, however right here they are saying they are going to be strict. There could be a variety of penalties for that, so let’s see.”
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Can anybody cease Toyota making it two wins in a row?
So, who’s trying within the strongest place to win after qualifying? It was the Yokohama-shod Racing Mission Bandoh Toyota that grabbed pole on Monday due to a sensational lap from Ritomo Miyata in Q2, however race tempo has confirmed a problem for Yokohama in latest seasons and there is little purpose to assume that this race is more likely to be an excessive amount of completely different.
Ranging from second would be the ARTA Honda, which got here inside 0.003s of pole within the palms of Nirei Fukuzumi – helped by the group focussing on a set-up that works for qualifying after struggling for one-lap tempo in final 12 months’s Fuji finale and final month’s Okayama curtain-raiser.
However behind the Honda can be 4 Bridgestone-shod Toyota GR Supras, which have misplaced little of their pace because the season opener at Okayama regardless of all carrying not an inconsiderable quantity of success ballast.
Certainly, Kenta Yamashita and Kazuya Oshima took victory at Okayama within the Rookie Racing Toyota, and regardless of carrying the utmost 40kg of additional weight Yamashita was quickest of all in Q1, with Oshima lastly qualifying in sixth place behind the Cerumo Supra and each TOM’S automobiles.
“[In Q1] the tyres matched the circumstances completely, and the set-up was additionally good,” stated Yamashita. “I really feel like all the pieces match collectively properly. Oshima was utilizing the laborious tyre for Q2, so the race must be good. I feel we now have an opportunity to win. The race is lengthy, the tyres are good, so if we will get to the entrance, I feel there’s undoubtedly an opportunity for back-to-back wins.”
#8 ARTA NSX-GT
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
For his half, Fukuzumi says he’s “not so assured” about his and Tomoki Nojiri’s probabilities of changing a front-row begin into victory, saying the ARTA crew nonetheless has work to do on refining its long-run tempo.
“I feel the Toyotas can be sturdy on race tempo, and in addition they’re quicker than us in a straight line,” admitted Fukuzumi. “Even when we now have higher race tempo than them, it will likely be troublesome to overhaul them.
“It is going to be essential to overhaul the #19 [Bandoh Supra] at first and attempt to get away from P2 as a lot as attainable. That is key.”
Baguette, who shares the Actual Racing Honda with Koudai Tsukakoshi, is likewise not anticipating any miracles in opposition to the Toyotas come race day.
“We noticed in follow that the race tempo was good, that’s our sturdy level right here at Fuji,” he stated. “However whenever you begin P11, it’s robust. I don’t know what to anticipate, particularly as a result of the Toyotas are very quick in a straight line and really troublesome to overhaul, as they have been in Okayama.”
For Quintarelli, a top-three place could be an excellent outcome contemplating the Nissan GT-R nonetheless faces a top-speed deficit, significantly problematic alongside Fuji’s large begin/end straight.
“We’re nonetheless 5 – 6 km/h slower on the straight,” stated the four-time champion. “If I contemplate simply the sensation of the automotive, and contemplate that we now have three stints, I feel we will combat for P3. However after we received previously, we didn’t qualify P7, so we now have to be life like.”
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