The second round of the 2019 AUTOBACS Super GT Season is set to kick off this weekend at the Fuji Speedway in Oyama, Japan.
|Fuji International Speedway – Oyama, Japan|
|Circuit Length||4.563 km / 2.835 mi||Opened||1965|
|First Super GT Event||1994||Direction||Clockwise|
In the early 60’s, plans were underway for a Japanese NASCAR style series, and the Japan NASCAR Corporation – now the Fuji Speedway Corporation – was formed and tasked with creating an oval circuit at the foothills of Mount Fuji.
After the funding fell through in the mid 1960s, the Mitsubishi Estate Co. invested in the circuit and took over the reins of management. Mitsubishi Estate then converted the track to a road circuit. Remnants of the original circuit remain, with the long main straight and an unused bank lurking beyond Turn 1.
The course offers several long sweeping sections and the longest straight in the Super GT season clocking in at a whopping 1.5 kilometres, a constant reminder of the track’s origins as a NASCAR circuit.
|2019 AUTOBACS Super GT Fuji GT 500 km – Provisional Schedule|
|Event Dates||13-14 April 2019||Free Practice Session 1
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 14:30-15:05||Qualifying Session 2||Sat 15:15-15:45|
|Warm-up Session||Sun 11:10-11:35||Race (110 laps)
All session times quoted in Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 9:00)
Rewind to 2018
The second round of the 2018 AUTOBACS Super GT series at Fuji saw Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli take home the GT500 victory in their #23 Motul Autech Nissan GT-R whilst Shinchi Takagi and Sean Walkinshaw piloted the #55 Arta BMW M6 GT3 to the GT300 class victory.
A positive change in the weather led to a sunny day with perfect conditions for racing. In the GT500 class, Quintarelli took the lead as early as the first corner of the race, overtaking the #38 Zent Cerumo LC500, which had qualified on pole.
This raced marked the Super GT debut of Sho Tsuboi, who made considerable effort in impress in his first race. Tsuboi held the lead in the second half of the race in his #39 Denso Kobelco Sard LC500 right up until their second pit stop, where the #23 Motul Autech GT-R, which was in second place, also pitted, but managed to get their car back on track faster. This cost Tsuboi and his team the win, although they still went home with a second-place finish.
In the GT300 class, Shinchi Takagi and his #55 Arta BMW M6 GT3 led the race from the beginning, having qualified in pole position. Following Takagi were Takuto Iguchi in the #61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport and Tatsuya Kataoka in the Goodsmile Racing AMG GT3.
After being overtaken by the #31 Toyota Prius on lap 17, the Goodsmile Racing AMG GT3 was in a tense battle for fourth place with the #65 Leon Cvstos AMG. On Lap 55 the second place #61 Subaru BRZ came to a sudden stop, being over taken by the #31 Toyota Prius, this left the #65 Leon and the Goodsmile Racing AMGs in a battle for the final spot on the podium as the race entered its final stints.
The win eventually went to the #55 Arta BMW M6 GT3, which had led from the start. The podium was filled out by the #31 Toyota Prius apr GT and the #11 Gainer Tanax GT-R, which had overtaken the Goodsmile Racing AMG upon pit exit on Lap 87.
The Fuji Form Guide
Unfortunately, given that the round one Okayama race was a slippery mess and was red-flagged well short of its scheduled 300-kilometre distance, there really is no telling who will come out on top at the Fuji 500.
Team Arta will be out to defend its victory from last season, having switched to the NSX GT3 over the BMW M6 GT3. Other top contenders in the GT300 class, such as the #4 Goodsmile Racing AMG and the #11 Gainer GT-R will also be looking for a win.
The #96 K-tunes RC F GT3 which won the Okayama race a few weeks ago will also be looking to continue its winning streak, however the #55 Arta NSX GT3 placed 2nd in that race, despite the wet conditions, and given their overwhelming success this time last year, one could only imagine what they’ll pull off this year.
In the GT500 class, the Motul Autech and Calsonic Nissan GT-R entries will look to continue living up to expectations. The #8 Arta Honda NSX-GT will also be looking to continue its success, after surviving the Okayama race at the start of the season. Other contenders for Saturday’s race include the #19 Wedsport Lexus LC500, which led the testing times at a recent Tire Makers Test at Suzuka Circuit. Other successes from this testing session include times set by the #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R and the #23 Motul Autech GT-R, as expected.
Image via Super GT