Supras Quickest In Official Testing But Good Signs Of Improvement For NSXs



1 September 2004
The fifth round of the 2004 AUTOBACS JGTC will take place on September 5 at Twin Ring Motegi. The circuit, Japan’s first dual-track venue, has both an oval track and severe technical road course, the latter a favorite in the motorcycle Moto GP World Championship series.

This same course will be the stage for the JGTC race. It is dotted with several curve variations connected by comparatively long, straight stretches. The inclusion of a number of “Stop-and-Go” corners requires car setups to be finely tuned for traction and braking performance. The JGTC official test sessions were held on August 3 and 4 at the track, with a total of 42 cars participating.

Again, it was the Toyota Supras showing domination of the top times during the sessions. The No.36 Supra entered by TOYOTA TEAM TOM’S (drivers: Tsuchiya and Apicella) was the fastest car with a lap time of 1’47.425″ set by Tsuchiya. Their hopes are high for a victory as they go into the race carrying only 20kg of handicap weight. The No.38 Supra of TOYOTA TEAM CERUMO (Tachikawa and Ara) clocked the second fastest time, a 1’47.498″ by Tachikawa. The No.38 car, as well, will be running with only slightly more handicap weight at 30kg. The third and fourth fastest times were also set by Supra drivers, the No.6 car (Wakisaka and Iida) and No.25 Supra (Schwager and Orido) each putting in times of 1’47.550″ (40kg handicap) and 1’47.551″ (20kg handicap), respectively.

But be on the watch out for the NSXs of Honda. Following a good show of strength with Michigami placing the No.18 Honda on the pole in front of the No.39 Supra of SARD, and two NSXs placing 1-2 in the Suzuka 1000km on August 22, bet on these cars contending for the podium at Motegi. Even though it seems that development is late in the year compared to the competition, the Honda camps have managed to continuously reduce the gap little by little. The fastest NSX lap in the test sessions was set by Lotterer in the No.32 NSX (EPSON NAKAJIMA RACING), fifth quickest overall at 1’47.697″. Moreover, the car is authorized to move up two levels under the JAF performance enhancement regulations. Four NSX teams entered for the race at the Honda-owned circuit are most surely motivated, and overdue for a win.

Contrary to the expectations of many, the Nissan Fairlady Zs did not perform well during the sessions. The fastest Nissan car was the No.023 NISMO test car, in which every Nissan driver got a chance behind the wheel. The best time was a 1’47.698″, sixth overall. Among the regular cars, the No.12 Fairlady of TEAM IMPUL (Treluyer and Ide) was the fastest, with a 1’48.197″. But that was only good enough for 11th overall, just behind the No.18 Honda NSX of Dome Racing Team (Michigami and Philippe). Michigami’s best lap was 1’48.169″. The pole sitter of the previous round, the No.3 Z driven by Comas and Kaneishi (HASEMI MOTORSPORT) was 14th with at time of 1’48.474″. Comas and Kaneishi got their first podium finish of the season at Round 4, and the car will be carrying a heavy 60kg handicap for the race. The winner of the Tokachi round was the No.22 Nissan driven by Kageyama and Krumm, and loaded with the heaviest handicap (100kg) they only managed a time of 1’49.403″, 17th overall.

The current driver pair leading in the championship standings, Dufour and Cooto of Toyota Team SARD, ended 12th overall (1’48.209″). Their Supra will carry a 50kg handicap during the race. Like the other teams, they loaded a similar weight during the test sessions to simulate race conditions.

GT fans making the journey to Motegi will be the first to see the Lamborghini Murcielago in JGTC action. Unfortunately, Team AMPREX (No.15, Hashimoto and Simon) will be absent form the race, but the car entered by JLOC (No.88, Yamanishi and Wada) will thrill all with the powerful sounds of the Italian V12.

The two Nissan Fairlady Zs entered by TEAM DAISHIN dominated the test sessions, finishing 1-2 for best GT300 overall times. The No.81 car (Yanagida and Omoto) was the fastest with a lap of 1’54.635″, followed by the No.80 car (Kinoshita and Hoshino) with a 1’55.718″. The development of the Z has seemed to progress steadily, and handicap weights for this round will not be fatally heavy (30 kg and 20kg, respectively), making these two cars possible favorites for the race.

Third quickest (1’55.787″) was the No.52 Celica of TOYOTA TEAM CERUMO. Takeuchi and Nishizawa have fought hard and strong in every race this season, but have only managed a best result of eighth (Round 3) so far. They’ll be looking to improve that statistic at Motegi.

The No.10 Ferrari F360 driven by Tanaka and Yogo was fourth fastest during the sessions (1’56.139″). Team GAINER’s second Ferrari (Matsuda and Suga) ran well too, setting a best lap of 1’56.422″ (7th overall in the class). These cars, too, will not be weighted down so heavily (20kg and 30kg, respectively), and should be noteworthy competitors race day.

The No.43 Garaiya driven by Nitta and Takagi, following their first victory in Round 4 at Tokachi, was ninth fastest with a lap time of 1’56.760″, just behind the No.16 Honda NSX entered by M-TEC. While Yamano and Yagi are leading in the points standings with their NSX, the M-TEC (Mugen) factory car will be carrying the heaviest handicap in the class (80kg). It will be interesting to see what they can do at Motegi.

The fastest Porsche at the sessions was the No.72 car driven by Hirakawa and Jyonai (TEAM GAIKOKUYA). Their best lap time of 1’56.370″ gave the Porsche a sixth overall finish for the GT300

The green light for Round 5 will be given September 3 at Twin Ring Motegi.