FEATURE – WET AND WILD SATURDAY AT SUPER GT FINAL ROUND

Waking up at stupid O clock on a Saturday on a November morning in Tokyo is never a warm occasion but today wasn’t so bad, a little gloomy but I didn’t care as I would soon be on a train heading down to Gotemba and Fuji Speedway for the last races of the Formula Nippon, GT 500 and GT300 series for 2012.

The Fuji Sprint Cup is the last race days of the seasons for the three major motorsports here in Japan and involves two days of racing for the GTs (one race for each driver on each day) and a qualifying day and race day for the Formula Nippon boys. A last run out of the teams, cars and drivers in their current set-ups before the merry-go-round of drivers, sponsors and team changes happens for 2013.

As I am heading out the door and trundling down the street to Shinjuku station to where my “Romance Car” (Don’t ask) awaits to whisk me away to Gotemba, the heavens start to open their leaky doors…this does not bode well for the weekend, let alone a hope in hell of keeping my feet dry. I arrive in Gotemba station after a nice little journey of a couple of hours and some change to what can only be described as, well, as a kiddies paddling pool! The rain had got worse the further from Tokyo I got. After a few minutes of waiting, my ride to the circuit arrives.

Running out into the rain and diving into the car I look up to see my friend all nice and dry and laughing at my somewhat wet appearance. My lift to the circuit is a good friend of mine, Richard Lyons.
Richard is a former Formula Nippon and GT500 champ with a long history of motorsport here in Japan and who this season after racing recently in Australia, has picked up the reins and decided to help guide a GT300 team for the last few races in the season.

The team in Question being Hitotsuyama Racing who are running a pair of Audi R8…some very beastly machines as I was about to find out over this coming weekend.

Cruising into the circuit and all the usual hustle and bustle surrounding the paddock was in full swing with the Formula Nippon boys qualifying in the paddling pool that was now Fuji Speedway. Deciding that I needed some orientation Richard takes me around on a quick tour showing me some places I would need to know primarily the team trailer and its heated interior and complimentary drinks ahhhh bliss after being out in the rainy cold weather :-)

Finding a place to set up my gear in the team trailer and after waterproofing my equipment just to be ultra cautious I venture out into the paddock and into the Garage of Hitotsuyama Racing to check on how Richards ZENT number 21 Car is coming along before the race.

Time for game face as Richard prepares for his race and I melt away into the background watching everyone take all the steps to get Richard out and in good shape for the race….never ceases to amaze me the coordination it takes from a team to get a car on the track. Trying not to get in the way I document all I can.

I decide to head out to the entrance of the pit lane and the beginning of the home straight at Fuji Speedway and set up camp for a while, all the time feeling squelchier and damper by the second – oh the hardships!

I watch the parade lap but I miss the number 21 car…

Unusually for GT300 its a standing start for the Fuji Sprint Races as opposed to its usual rolling start and before I know it the race is on the way and I am in work mode trying to capture these beasts as they thunder by me.

As the race goes on (22 Laps, again a Fuji Sprint element) the Hankook Porsche number 33 Driven by tomonobu Fujii was looking a dead cert to win the race and sure enough took the flag. The entire race I am looking for the Zent Number 21 R8 but it never shows and unbeknownst to me, Richard had in-fact retired from the race with a Clutch issue. I head back to the pits after the race and find a not so happy driver which is to be expected. After overhearing the mechanics, it seems the issue was one unforeseen and no fault of Richards or his team. That’s racing.

The Second Audi of Team Hitotsuyama Racing, the number 77 Investors car faired better and finished in 9th, the car piloted by American/Ukraine born Igor Sushko.

I left Richard in discussion with his mechanics and team and went out to watch the GT500 race from the trailer for a few laps and then planned to go out and shoot them but after only 10 laps it was called off due to the weather conditions and by that point, I hadn’t managed to even grab any shots, so I trudged back to the team trailer, one very wet and disappointed shooter. By the time the race was cancelled, Ronnie Quintarelli was in the lead and took the win.

I finally get back to my hotel in Gotemba thoroughly exhausted from the long day and hit the hay determined to wake up and get the second day of racing underway, Best of all another “friend” was joining up with us that Sunday at the speedway all the way from Germany…

Part two coming tomorrow.

7Tune – The Ultimate Motor Racing experience Since 2005.

Words and Photos – Adrian Venner

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