2016 Race Analysis: Okayama

We’re fans of motorsport at Super GT World. And we’re fascinated by analytics. Our race analysis of last autumn’s Buriram Super GT Race in Thailand was an unprecedented attempt to try and quantify and evaluate as many drivers as possible over the course of an extended run during a race.

At the time, with only the race data from Buriram available, we thought it would be the only chance all year to do something like this. As it turns out, several months after the end of the season, we discovered that Super GT’s official mobile website carries all of the timing and scoring information for every round of the championship. That includes every race lap of every car and every driver for all eight rounds of the 2016 Super GT Series.

So, as the first of a multi-part installment, we present the race analysis and driver rankings for the domestic rounds of the 2016 Autobacs Super GT Series, starting with the season-opening race at Okayama International Circuit held on April 10, 2016.

Our driver rankings are compiled using average of the twenty fastest race laps by each driver in the race. This is inspired by the driver rankings compiled by endurance racer David Heinemeier Hansson, for WEC and IMSA events including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Each driver is ranked by their top 20 race laps’ average, as well as their fastest race laps and total number of race laps.

Owing to the unique elements of Super GT racing, we will also list each driver’s Success Ballast handicap (not applicable at Okayama), their tyre suppliers, and whether a driver ran the “opening” or “closing” stint of the race.

Be sure to click on the images of each driver rankings table to view them in full!

Race Conditions

The Okayama GT 300km was a dry race held under cloudy skies. Track temperatures stayed at a steady 26° C at the start and the middle of the race. Air temperature for the start of the race was 20°C, moving up to 23°C by the end.

The safety car was not deployed during the race.

As a note, two cars from GT300 failed to take the start: The #9 Gulf NAC Porsche 911 GT3-R (Ryohei Sakaguchi/Hiroki Yoshida) suffered a terminal engine failure in Saturday practice, and the #5 Mach Syaken Toyota 86 MC (Tetsuji Tamanaka/Junichiro Yamashita) crashed in the Sunday morning Free Practice.

GT500 Driver Rankings

2016_rd1_gt500_rankings

  • Fastest Outright Driver: Ronnie Quintarelli – 1:23.086 Average. Quintarelli made a brilliant charge to the head of the grid. It took just 28 laps for the four-time champion to run down and pass countryman Andrea Caldarelli (5th fastest average), and the four extra laps he drove over pole winner James Rossiter (2nd fastest average) were crucial to securing a season-opening victory for NISMO – along with superb pit work and the second-fastest closing stint from Tsugio Matsuda, one that clinched his record 17th GT500 race win.
  • Fastest Closing Stint: Katsumasa Chiyo – 1:23.424 Average. Chiyo was one of only two drivers who had a faster average in the closing stint than their co-drivers on the opening stint. He made an immediate impact in his debut GT500 race, making quick work of Kazuya Oshima for third place, and pressuring Ryo Hirakawa for several laps in an ultimately futile attempt to take second. He would be upset with himself for not taking second place, but Chiyo-san has nothing to be ashamed of in this performance.
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Four-time GT500 champion Ronnie Quintarelli posted the fastest top 20 race lap average at Okayama. © Nissan
  • The trend of this race was the short-run pace of the Bridgestone-clad Lexus RC Fs versus the long-run pace of the two Michelin-clad Nissan GT-Rs. The three fastest laps of the race belong to Lexus/Bridgestone drivers: Rossiter, Caldarelli, and Hiroaki Ishiura. But Michelin and Nissan showed their superiority over long runs, with their four drivers – Quintarelli, Chiyo, Matsuda, and Satoshi Motoyama – all in the top six fastest averages.
  • Honda had a rather wretched 2016 on the whole. It started at Okayama, when their five NSX Concept-GTs locked out the back five places on the grid. It didn’t improve in the race, with Honda’s nine qualifying drivers on the table occupying the bottom eleven places. The fastest average of Naoki Yamamoto in the opening leg was still a whopping 1.8 seconds off Quintarelli’s outright fastest opening stint.

GT300 Driver Rankings

2016_rd1_gt300_rankings

  • Fastest Outright Stint: Haruki Kurosawa (1:29.788 Average). Give a hand to K2 R&D LEON Racing, who broke through with a first career victory from the front row of the grid, and to Haruki Kurosawa, who won his first race in nine years thanks to a starting stint that saw him compile the best Top 20 average – even if by only .003 seconds over pole winner Takeshi Tsuchiya.
  • Fastest Closing Stint: Naoya Gamou (1:29.955 Average). Kurosawa’s co-driver Gamou had an incredible 46-lap closing stint to the race that proved to be critical in securing that first win for the LEON Racing team. With nothing between Kurosawa and Tsuchiya in terms of pace, and with both VivaC Team Tsuchiya and LEON Racing employing similar pit strategies, Gamou’s final stint – driven on two old Yokohama tyres – was an average of 1.8 seconds faster than Tsuchiya’s co-driver Takamitsu Matsui, who would struggle throughout the first two races of the season for outright pace on worn tyres. A well-earned first Super GT win for Gamou on all accounts.
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Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou. © K2 R&D LEON Racing
  • Okayama tends to favour the FIA GT3 cars due to its long straights and slow-to-medium speed corners. Nine out of the ten fastest averages were compiled by drivers of GT3 cars. Six of them were driving the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, which showed incredible pace all weekend in the hands of LEON Racing, Goodsmile Racing, and Gainer. After a 1-2-4 finish and overwhelming pace from their best drivers, it’s little wonder why the Mercedes-AMG was hit with a number of BoP nerfs in subsequent races.
  • A few standout performances were had in the middle of the table: Kota Sasaki (1:30.571 Avg.) in the #30 Toyota Prius outperformed both drivers of the #31 Prius, with a more powerful hybrid system and stronger Bridgestone tyres. Akihiro Tsuzuki (1:30.875 Avg.), a true gentleman driver in his first race back in a year, was solidly mid-table and reasonably matching the pace of his three-time champion co-driver Morio Nitta. Naoya Yamano (55 Laps) drove the longest stint of the race, a saving grace for a miserable outing for Porsche. Yuya Motojima (1:31.206 Avg.) would do very well for Team Taisan SARD under the circumstances in his Super GT debut: With little testing, no running until Sunday Free Practice, in an outdated Audi R8 LMS Ultra, the rookie was solidly mid-table.

Tomorrow, we analyze the Golden Week classic, the 2016 Fuji 500km!

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