A degree in mathematics may not be the necessary to fully understand the increasingly complex points and performance formulas in modern motorsport. 

But it helps.

In SUPER GT’s complex handicap weight rule, the amount of handicap weight is calculated by multiplying the points gained by the driver who is driving the car by 2 kg for Round 2 until Round 6 (if the points are different between teammates, than the higher point is used for calculation). However, for Round 7, the handicap weight will be less, calculated by multiplying the points by 1 kg. By the rule, the handicap weight loaded on No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button) at previous SUGO race was 80kg, but, for the Round 7 Autopolis, where the team will be coming in as point leader, the handicap weight will be reduced to 61kg. Still, it will be a tough battle for the leader as their handicap weight is the heaviest among the GT500. Their aim would be a podium finish and move on to the final round while keeping the top position. Off course, it would not be surprising if they won back to back either considering they still grabbed a win at SUGO with 80kg of handicap weight. If No.100 car wins, then there is a great chance that the champion will be decided here, depending on the result of the rivals.

However, the rivals reside within the NSX-GT squad itself. Moreover, Autopolis with many mid- and high-speed corners is a favorable track layout to NSX-GT. This showed in qualifying with the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT driven by Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa taking  pole position for the second time this season following the one at Round 3 at Suzuka. In the GT300 class, the AUTOPOLIS pole position went to the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC driven by Takamitsu Matsui and Sho Tsuboi for the second consecutive year.

The qualifying sessions to determine the starting grids for tomorrow’s race began at 2:30 in the afternoon. After the GT300 class Q1 session, the GT500 class Q1was run. In order to concentrate their time attacks in the last two minutes of the 15-minute GT500 class Q1 session, the teams remained in their pits until about 8 minutes remained in the session before taking to the track. With 3 minutes remaining, the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT driven by former F1 world champion Jenson Button and the other Honda NSX-GT cars began to made all-out attacks. The No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Takashi Kogure) ran a time of 1’32.650 to beat the old course record (1’32.835). In 2nd position was the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa) and taking 3rd position was last year’s GT500 champion team, the No. 1 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa). Meanwhile, among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki) was fastest in 11th position, meaning that all four Nissan cars failed to qualify to Q2.

In the 10-minute GT500 class Q2, all eight cars that had made the cut-off in Q1 once again waited until 8 minutes remained in the session before taking to the track. It was in the closing minutes of the session that they began to make their serious time attacks. Here again, it was the NSX-GT that showed their speed. The No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT bettered the course record that Nojiri had set in Q1 by brining that time down to with a time 1’31.441 that gave the team its second pole position of the season following Round 3 at Suzuka and its fourth overall.
Second and third positions went to the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi) and the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto), giving the NSX-GT a sweep of the top three places. Taking the 4th spot was last year’s AUTOPOLIS winner, the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Yuhi Sekiguchi).

In the GT300 class, GT rookie Tomita in the No. 60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Daiki Yoshimoto/Ritomo Miyata) recorded the fastest time in class. However, in Q2, it was Tsuboi in the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui/Sho Tsuboi) who set a course record of 1’42.498 to take pole position. Car No. 25 had also taken pole position at last year’s AUTOPOLIS with a course record, making it a second consecutive pole here. Qualifying in 2nd position was the No. 10 GAINER TANAX triple a GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Hiroki Yoshida), and taking 3rd position was the Fukuoka-based No. 5 MACH SHAKEN MC86 Y’s distraction (Natsu Sakaguchi/Yuya Hiraki).

Autopolis is favorable to JAF-GT300. But you can’t underestimate BMW and AMG either

One thing we should remember here is that the handicap weight is not halved on all cars at Round 7 by the handicap weight rule. Handicap weight is halved on only the teams that have participated in seven races as of Round 7, and any teams with six or less races participation would be excluded. Out of GT300 teams who have scored a point, No.26 TAISAN R8 FUKUSHIMA would fall into the exclusion. Top 10 teams in the point ranking competing for the title would all be in the same condition with halved handicap weight.

Now, let’s look into the race at Autopolis. Autopolis with many mid- and high-speed corners tends to be favorable to the cars with good performance around the corners. Indeed, the mother-chassis cars and JAF-GT300 cars have been fast at the track, and all pole positions from recent three races at the circuit have been from the group. With the pole-to-win last year, No.25 HOPPY 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui / Sho Tsuboi) can be said to be the closest to the victory among all. Second in the points No.31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga / Kohei Hirate) would also want to score a win here. No.61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi / Hideki Yamauchi), after winning the previous race at SUGO, should also be looking only at the win since they can keep their hope alive for the title until the final round if they can win back to back.

Contrastingly, point leader No.55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Shinichi Takagi / Sean Walkinshaw) and other FIA GT3 cars tend to struggle at Autopolis. Nevertheless, cars with good cornering performance should be able to match up with the JAF-GT300 cars. In fact, No.55 car has produced a result with a third-place finish on podium last year. The team would want to finish in an upper position again this year so that they can tackle the final round from the highest position of the ranking. We might also see cars like Mercedes AMG GT3, NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3, or Audi R8 LMS fighting strong on the track. Especially, defending champion No.0 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi / Tatsuya Kataoka), No.65 LEON CVSTOS AMG (Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou), and No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka / Hironobu Yasuda) would want to capture a win or podium finish since the upcoming race is critical in terms of title contention.

Making its first appearance at Autopolis, Honda NSX-GT can be a top performer at the track considering its mid-engine layout. Eyes should also be put on No.5 MACH SYAKEN MC86 Y’s distraction (Natsu Sakaguchi / Yuya Hiraki), a Fukuoka-based team, as the young duo has started to show speed in recent races.

Source: Super GT Media