2016 Race Analysis: 45th International Suzuka 1000km

The last 2016 Super GT Race Analysis for a few days will be a look at the crown jewel of the Super GT calendar and of Japanese sports car racing, the 45th International Suzuka 1000km, held on August 28, 2016 at Suzuka Circuit.

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, and their tyre suppliers.

We will also list each driver’s set of stints from “first” to “sixth” – for example, a driver whose Stints are listed as “1/3/5” drove the first, third, and fifth stints of the race for their respective team.

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

Race Conditions

The 45th International Suzuka 1000km was a mixed-weather race held under cloudy skies. It was dry at the start of the race, but declared wet on three different occasions due to moderate rain showers throughout the track.

There was one safety car period during the race, from laps 88 to 92, for a single-car accident involving the #2 Syntium Apple Lotus Evora MC exiting turns 1 & 2.

All classified teams were required to make five pit stops for refuelling and driver changes during the race.

The #7 Studie BMW M6 GT3 (Jörg Müller/Seiji Ara/Augusto Farfus) did not start the race due to recurring mechanical issues suffered during the weekend.

GT500 Driver Rankings

2016_Rd6_GT500_rankings

 

  • Fastest Outright Average: Hiroaki Ishiura (1:52.316 Average). Congratulations to Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo, this was a masterfully won race. Yuji Tachikawa (2nd fastest) had a terrific opening stint to get from eighth to first on the grid, had some breathtaking overtakes including a somewhat controversial one on his last stint. But his co-driver Ishiura was flawless all race weekend. Only two other drivers did more laps during the race, and Ishiura kept the ZENT Cerumo RC-F up front for all 91 laps over three stints. He never put a wheel wrong until the final corners of the final lap – and even then, he drove well enough that it didn’t matter in the end. That Ishiura drove so well shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, he was the reigning Super Formula champion, and now, a two-time Suzuka 1000km winner.
  • This race could easily be seen as the last hurrah for a generation of Super GT legends, all with the second, third, and fourth-fastest averages: The aforementioned Tachikawa, ahead of Satoshi Motoyama, and Daisuke Ito, who all stood on the podium by the end of the night. Motoyama’s chance to finally win his first Suzuka 1000km ended due to a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellows, which was a real shame. Ito, on the other hand, came within 1.2 seconds of winning a record-tying fourth overall crown in the summer endurance classic – it was his eighth podium in his sixteenth 1000km.
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Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo drivers Yuji Tachikawa (left) and Hiroaki Ishiura (right) with team director Tora Takagi (centre). © Toyota Gazoo Racing
  • Mitsunori Takaboshi was drafted in to replace the injured Katsumasa Chiyo in the #46 S Road GT-R. It was a high-pressure environment for any driver to make their GT500 debut. Takaboshi excelled in the circumstances, scoring the sixth-fastest average, running a race-high 95 laps, and having a very, very entertaining battle for the final podium place with Kazuya Oshima (7th fastest) over several laps during the fourth leg of the race.
  • Honda’s best chance to win a race all season might have been at this race. It didn’t turn out like that. But apart from pole position for Hideki Mutoh on Saturday, they could at least take pride in that both Koudai Tsukakoshi and Tomoki Nojiri posted top-ten fastest averages, even if they were only able to finish at the back end of the points for Real Racing and ARTA respectively. Tsukakoshi was the fastest Honda driver for the fourth consecutive race, while Nojiri had the NSX’s fastest lap of the race, and the third-fastest of the field.
  • It’s so fascinating to look at how both NISMO drivers, Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli, ran in comparison to their results. Their averages were solidly mid-table. Their car never lapped faster than a 1:52.7 between both drivers. That was to be expected with 100 kilograms of ballast on board. But they were remarkably consistent, lap after lap, they never once faltered under pressure, and if the fuel hadn’t run out with just four corners left to go, they could have took home a genuinely astonishing fourth place finish despite having nowhere even close to the fastest car of the race.

GT300 Driver Rankings

2016_Rd6_GT300_rankings

  • Fastest Outright Average: Yuhki Nakayama (2:02.117 Average). This might have been Yuhki Nakayama’s best individual race performance in years, and keep in mind, this is now about three years removed from a championship season in 2013 with Team Mugen. Nakayama took pole position for the race, and was leading decisively for several laps right up until the safety car period – that one mis-timed third pit stop for Team Upgarage with Bandoh cost them the race. Still, fourth place is a solid result, and Nakayama is now back to being established as a GT500-caliber talent who just so happens to be racing in GT300.
  • Along with Team Upgarage with Bandoh, Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO can also count themselves unlucky not to have been a factor in the win due to the timing of their third pit stop – just look at how fast Nobuteru Taniguchi was driving, posting the second-fastest Top 20 average. Like Motoyama in GT500, Taniguchi is one of the all-time great GT300 drivers that’s still searching for their first victory in the Suzuka summer endurance race.
  • But give credit where it’s due to R&D Sport and Subaru for winning the race with perfectly timed and executed strategy, and give credit to the man with the third-highest average on the day, Hideki Yamauchi. He did his part to take Subaru and R&D Sport’s fourth wins in the last seven years – and more impressive regarding his individual performance, the fact that his second and third stints in the car were driven on a partial set of worn tyres.
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Yuhki Nakayama had his best individual performance in a long time at the Suzuka 1000km.
  • In the mixed conditions and intermittent showers including one in the final three laps, Dunlop excelled, taking two places on the podium and having three of their drivers posting Top 20 averages inside the top five – Yamauchi, Ryuichiro Tomita, and André Couto. Once again, Tomita was quicker than his more experienced co-driver, and would be considered a bit unlucky to lose out on second place to Yuichi Nakayama (8th fastest) on the final lap.
  • The Super GT debut of Tadasuke Makino was one of the big pre-race storylines in GT300. If his one and only stint was any indication, he could have gone even faster than the 10th best average – but he still marginally outdid veteran co-driver Hiroki Katoh all weekend long, including a class record lap in qualifying that didn’t count for pole position simply because it was set in Q1. This was their one chance to win a race, and while it ended badly, Makino still enjoyed a star-making performance.
  • Honorable mentions: Yuya Motojima (6th fastest) for a Taisan SARD team that was knocked out of the running for points, Naoya Yamano (7th fastest) finally getting Porsche on the board, Takamitsu Matsui (14th fastest) keeping up his run of good form and slightly outpacing his higher-rated co-driver Kenta Yamashita, Shota Kiyohara (16th place) once again overachieving for Tomei Sports in a limited role.
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