A 15 kilogram weight reduction for the Honda NSX-GTs may not have seemed like a game changer, but one session into the Super GT in Kyushu 300km at Autopolis, Honda seem reinvigorated.
The #100 Raybrig NSX-GT of Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa led a Honda 1-2 in practice, courtesy of a blistering lap by Yamamoto in the final ten minutes of practice, ahead of the #17 Keihin NSX-GT of Koudai Tsukakoshi and Takashi Kogure.
In GT300, the #18 Upgarage Bandoh 86 (Yuhki Nakayama*/Shintaro Kawabata) led a top five dominated by the Toyota 86 MCs and the Mercedes-AMG GT3s.
Honda had expected to gain about 0.15 seconds per lap thanks to their recent 15kg weight reduction that was announced last week. Throughout most of practice, it was the Raybrig NSX that was on top of the timing and scoring sheets.
When the final ten minutes commenced for GT500 private practice, several teams set their fastest laps of the session – but on his final flying lap, Yamamoto set a scorching time of 1:33.783 in the Raybrig NSX, 0.761 seconds faster than Kogure’s fastest time in the Keihin NSX – a 1:34.544.
After Team Kunimitsu finished fastest in an April tyre test at Autopolis, and now in Saturday practice, spirits are high out of the Honda camp as the focus turns to qualifying this afternoon.
The #36 au TOM’s LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima/James Rossiter*) finished third-fastest with a 1:34.741, best of the Lexus LC500s. The #8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Takashi Kobayashi*) finished fourth-fastest, putting three Hondas in the top five.
The #6 Wako’s 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima*/Andrea Caldarelli), first of the LC500s carrying a fuel flow restrictor this weekend, finished fifth-fastest, over 1.1 seconds off Yamamoto’s best time, but well ahead of their two nearest championship rivals, the Fuji 500km winners #38 ZENT Cerumo LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa/Hiroaki Ishiura*) in ninth, and the championship-leading #37 KeePer TOM’s LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy*) in fourteenth.
The #46 S Road GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Katsumasa Chiyo*) was sixth-fastest, leading the Michelin runners and the Nissan GT-Rs. In eighth, best of the Yokohama runners, was the #16 Motul Mugen NSX-GT (Hideki Mutoh*/Daisuke Nakajima).
The battle between the FIA GT3 and JAF-GT300/MC cars heated up after former GT300 Drivers’ Champion Yuhki Nakayama turned in the fastest lap of GT300 practice, a 1:44.841, in the final ten minutes, putting the #18 Upgarage Bandoh Toyota 86 MC on top of the session.
Despite a 35kg weight penalty as part of the most recent round of BoP adjustments, three Mercedes-AMG GT3s made it into the top five, led by the #11 Gainer Tanax AMG (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Björn Wirdheim*) on Dunlop tyres, with a 1:45.054 – just 0.017 faster than the #65 LEON Cvstos AMG (Haruki Kurosawa/Naoya Gamou*), who put all three GT300 tyre suppliers in the top three, Yokohama, Dunlop, and Bridgestone in that order.
The #25 VivaC 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui*/Kenta Yamashita) led for most of practice, but ended up fourth, ahead of the #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka*) in fifth.
Three more JAF-GT300/MC cars made it into the top ten: The #61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport (Takuto Iguchi*/Hideki Yamauchi) in sixth, a great run for the #5 Mach Syaken MC86 (Natsu Sakaguchi*/Kiyoto Fujinami) eighth, and a very encouraging result for the #52 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota Mark X MC (Taku Bamba/Shigekazu Wakisaka*) in ninth.
2015 Autopolis class winners NDDP Racing were tenth fastest with the #3 B-Max NDDP Nissan GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Mitsunori Takaboshi*), and current GT300 championship leaders, the #51 JMS P.MU Lexus RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama*/Sho Tsuboi) were twelfth-fastest.
Only two red flags were observed, for incidents involving Nattavude Charoensukhawatana in the #35 Arto 86 MC 101, and Hiroshi Takamori in the #48 Shokumou GT-R, but neither car was damaged as they spun into the gravel.
*denotes driver who recorded car’s fastest lap.