The 2022 Super GT series midterm review
The Honda Super GT camp had narrowly missed two back-to-back victory in the series last year. The development team aiming to recapture the series title had switched the base car to newly released NSX Type S, and throughly modified it into the 2022 NSX-GT models with redesigned bodywork having more efficient aerodynamics and thus a further enhanced competitiveness. The Honda brigades set off to the 2022 expedition with its driver line-ups remain almost unchanged except for #17 Astemo NSX-GT, in which Nobuharu Matsushita was appointed as Koudai Tsukakoshi’s new partner.
The opening round of this season was held at Okayama International Circuit. #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino) marked 3rd fastest time as the best qualifier among all NSX-GT entrants. The race day at Okayama circuit was blessed with fine weather and both ambient/road surface temperatures hiked up as the start time approached. #100 NSX-GT starting from 3rd grid could not pick up the pace as it wished in the race, and dropped 5th when pitted for driver change.
#100 NSX-GT somehow regained its speed in the later half of the race and quickly positioned up to 4th. On lap-72, 10 or so more laps to go, #100 car was catching up on two other cars in front, running abreast with them from the most inward position into the hairpin, and overtook both cars in one move. #100 NSX-GT kept the position thereafter and went on to finish the race in 2nd place. After the race, Saeki, Project Leader, commented, “We could confirm that the direction of developments we’ve carried out for the 2022 season was right.”
The 2nd round of the series was held at Fuji Speedway on May 3rd (Sat) - 4th (Sun). As a new experiment in this season, the race distance of particular races was extended to a total of 450km, 1.5 times longer than the normal distance, in which the entire runners were required to make pit stops at least twice, and R-2 at Fuji was one of them.
There were rain puddles left on the track surface on Saturday morning, however, the weather was getting better as the sun came up, and qualifying session took place under dry condition.
#8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Nirei Fukuzumi) marking 5th fastest in the qualify, which was the best among all NSX-GT cars, set about the race on Sunday.
In the race, on lap 43, when the first driver change was almost done, an accident induced Full Course Yellow, and then Safety Car was sent out. The race was red-flagged for once on lap 49, and at this time, #8 NSX-GT was running 5th.
As the race was restarted on 53rd lap, #8 NSX-GT climbed up to 4th place as cars in front touched each other. The chaotic state of the race was not settled yet. On lap 58, at the home straight end, #3 CRAFTSTORTS MOTUL Z running 2nd hit a slower car, then crashed extremely hard into the guardrail. #8 NSX-GT following right behind dodged the wreck by a hairsbreadth to go up 3rd, however, the race was immediately suspended by the red flag yet again.
Race was restarted at 6:10 p.m. when the damaged guardrail was temporarily restored, however, the imminent sunset time did not allow further action, and the race was prematurely closed with Safety Car leading the pack. #8 NSX-GT crossed the line in 3rd but was moved up to first place because the two cars finished earlier both incurred time penalty.
The 3rd round of the series was held at Suzuka Circuit on May 28th (Sat) - 29th (Sun) where the weekend begun with fine weather. Qualifying session on Saturday saw #16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Ukyo Sasahara/Toshiki Oyu) got 4th grid and #17 NSX-GT 5th for the race next day.
Fine weather continued on Sunday and temperatures of both ambient and road surface have got higher and higher as time went by. The race was started when the condition reached at its peak of harshness. #17 NSX-GT left from 5th grid immediately overtook #16 NSX-GT and then #19 GR Supra climbing up to 3rd place.
In the later half of the race, when the entire runners finished driver change, #17 NSX-GT, now sitting on 2nd, steadily controlled the gap at around 1-second to #37 GR Supra following behind, and kept on to finish 2nd which was 3-places up from the starting position.
After 2-month interval from R-3, the 4th round of the series was held at Fuji Speedway on August 6th (Sat) - 7th (Sun). Severe heat wave till then had abruptly disappeared in the weekend, Fuji Speedway saw the cloudy sky further alleviating the ambient temperature to 22 ℃, exceptionally low for a day in mid-August. In qualifying session on Saturday, #8 NSX-GT managed to get the 5th grid, the best among Honda runners. The weather got better on Sunday, and the 450km race of the irregular format has started for the first time in this season, at least in the full scale, for the 2nd round at Fuji that was supposed be carried out on the same 450km format was cut short due to the sunset rule.
#8 NSX-GT (Fukuzumi) starting from 5th grid mintained its position for a while, and then positioned up to 4th before coming in for refueling. Nojiri took over the second stint, kept the virtual 4th place into the later half of the race, and then engaged in a fierce battle with #36 au TOM’S GR Supra for a few laps only to surrender on lap 56 receding to 5th place. He came in for the second refueling on lap 71 and returned to the race, without driver change, maintaining 5th place.
In the final phase of the race, #39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra quickly catching up from behind, saving its pit time by omitting tire change, and succeeded to snatch 5th place albeit for a short while, for #8 NSX-GT made a last-minute counterattack, got back the 5th place and finished the 450km race in that order.
At the post R-4 point in the 8-round series in this year, #100 NSX-GT stands on 5th place with a total of 23-points, 8-points behind the point leader, and further 2-points behind, #8 NSX-GT standing on 7th.
Project Leader, Saeki expressing his hopes for the later half of the season, said, “We’ve been able to accumulate points in all four rounds so far, and were left not very much far behind the top rankers. We’ll further improve our cars for the rest of the season while checking various set ups, the internal pressure of tires and so force."