The 2023 Super GT series midterm review

As the "development freeze” policy currently be in force, the NSX-GT cars participating in the 2023 season had cannibalized the fundamental components of the chassis from the 2022 model. On the other hand, due to the mandatory use of carbon-neutral (CN) fuel enacted as from this season,

The 2023 Super GT series midterm review

HRC has chosen to compete in the season with its engines tuned, in accordance with the regulations, by exploiting know-hows domestically accumulated through the past experiences.

The 2023 season opened on April 15-16 at Okayama International Circuit. The race weekend was struck by the rough weather derived by an atmospheric depression untimely passing by the region. NSX-GT cars invariably suffering from the turbulent condition in the qualifying sessions ended up with rather frustrating grid positions. On Sunday, the sky being clear up until the formation lap suddenly darkened with thick clouds, and almost immediately heavy drops of rain began falling. The race interrupted by Safety Car several times showed chaotic state as it went on.

Then the weather got better and the track surface immediately dried out which made the tire management very difficult. #8 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Toshiki Oyu) took advantage of the confused procession, steadily made up its position, and eventually finished 3rd. A remarkable result for the new pair teamed up just from this season, and even with the penalty incurred on chassis swapping.

The second round of the series was held at Fuji Speedway during the period of consecutive national holidays in May, so-called “Golden Week” in Japan, which was deservedly blessed with fine weather. #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino) captured pole position dominating qualifying sessions run under the clear sky. In the race, #100 NSX-GT, although having some difficulties in the matching between tires and setting, carried out clever fight all through the 450km-long race, and finished 2nd in the end. #17 Astemo NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Nobuharu Matsushita) also showed tenacious drive from 8th grid, passed through the field up to 3rd and made the podium finish.

The third round was held in the first week of June at Suzuka Circuit, as everybody knows, the home track of Honda camp. While the weather in the race week was more or less affected by Typhoon Mawar, all the track actions were proceeded under the dry condition. #8 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT (Nojiri/Oyu) and #17 Astemo NSX-GT (Tsukakoshi/Matsushita) having made good results in the past two rounds, and thus carrying heavier Success Weight, both had hard time to keep up its pace. Instead, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Yamamoto/Makino) achieved 3rd grid and saved the momentum at a loss.

In the race, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Yamamoto/Makino) played smart on the pit stop strategy twice in the race, and eventually climbed up to virtual 4th, i.e., apparent 5th place in the field, when a big accident happened on track provoking Red Flag and then the race was stopped for good. After the race, an appeal against the tentative result was presented. The car finished 1st only in apparent because it had stopped just once while other top finishers done twice. It took eight days for the jury to finally dismiss the tentative 1st place of the car that had not satisfied the mandated two pit stops, and in the result, the placing of #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Yamamoto/Makino) was settled in 5th.

As a record-breaking heat wave settled in over the Japan archipelago, the fourth round of the series was held on August 5-6 at Fuji Speedway. Qualifying sessions run under the scorching sun saw a dominating performance from the NSX-GT brigade. All five entrants cleared Q1 and made its way to Q2.

The final order of the starting grid presented a grand sight again for Honda fans: #16 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT (Nirei Fukuzumi/Hiroki Otsu) sat on 2nd grid, on down, #8 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT (Nojiri/Oyu/Iori Kimura) 3rd, #17 Astemo NSX-GT (Tsukakoshi/Matsushita) 5th, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Yamamoto/Makino) 6th, #64 Modulo NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa/Kakunoshin Ohta) 8th, it looked almost monopolizing the top half of the starting grids.

Happy events are often accompanied by difficulties, they say however. The volatile weather on Sunday afternoon brought the race into chaotic state. It began raining just before the start which made all cars switching to rain tires on the dummy gird and departed behind Safety Car. The NSX-GTs running in the top group got sluggish in the early stage and dropped back gradually. After Lap-10, when the track surface began drying, the most of the cars came in for dry tires which made the field order a complete mess.

Later in the race, an accident on the track induced Safety Car, subsequent Red Flag and restart followed by the rainfall further disturbed the proceedings. In such a maelstrom, #16 ARTA MUGEN (Fukuzumi/Otsu) raised its pace and #100 STANLEY (Yamamoto/Makino) and #64 Modulo (Izawa/Ota) followed suit, made up the 2-3-4 finishes of the NSX-GT squad.

The messy substance of the race was not ceased yet. Time penalty was imposed afterwards on both #16 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT and #100 STANLEY NSX-GT for illegal pit work, so that the official results settled as to raise #64 Astemo NSX-GT to 2nd place, and #16 ARTA MUGEN NSX-GT was relegated 3rd.

At the midterm point of the 2023 season, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Yamamoto/Makino) stands on 3rd in the point ranking with 22-points behind the series leader, and #17 Astemo NSX-GT (Tsukakoshi/Matsushita) was following in 6th.

Honda’s Super GT program is planning to switch the base model of GT500 class to Civic Type R-GT as from the 2024 season. Therefore, only four races at Suzuka Circuit, Sportsland SUGO, Autopolis and Mobility Resort Motegi are left for the NSX-GT model to run in the series. Target is clear and immanent: Bring the NSX-GT’s challenge to a successful conclusion by recapturing the series title it had last won three years back. The entire Honda force is positively looking forward to the latter half of the season.

Masahiro Saiki
Masahiro Saiki
HRC SGT Large Project Leader
We could confirm the potential of NSX-GT through the races in the before half of the season. On the other hand, we haven’t lived up to our own expectations so far in terms of point ranking. Having said that, the races scheduled in the later half will run on the tracks that supposed to be NSX-GT’s forte. So, we’ll prepare all over again for the second half of the series, accumulate points as many as possible, and stay to be a center player in the championship.

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