With the fourth round of the ever-popular Super GT Championship in Japan about to get underway at Fuji from 6-7 August, Motul AUTECH Z driver and Nismo racer Ronnie Quintarelli takes us on a whistlestop tour of the series.
Ronnie, what is the Super GT Championship?
Super GT is the highest level of GT series in the world and the main motorsport series in Japan. Of course, we also have Super Formula here, but in terms of audience, spectators and coverage, Super GT is the main one. It’s divided into two classes: GT500 and GT300. The GT500 class has the three biggest Japanese manufacturers involved – Toyota, Nissan and Honda; all the teams are supported by the manufacturers. There are 15 cars in the GT500 class, with two drivers per car.
How long are the races?
Usually, the race distance is 300km and there’s one mandatory pitstop during the race to change tyres, refuel and swap drivers. For three rounds out of eight, the race distance is increased to 450km with three stints, so we have to pit twice for refuel and change the drivers at least once. The GT300 class is like GT in Europe, with 28 cars on the grid and about 20 GT3 cars from European and Japanese manufacturers. And then there are some Japanese-style original cars that are controlled by a balance of performance. These cars are quite different compared to GT3s but the result on track is quite similar, making the competition in GT300 class really exciting to watch as well.
What’s the format of the races?
The two classes run in the same race but with two different results. There’s a split grid at the start. The GT500 cars are about 10 seconds quicker a lap, so we start from the front and then every 10 laps or so we pass them. It’s a lot of traffic on track and not easy to manage. Another unique thing about super GT is we have four tyre manufacturers involved, making the competition very competitive from tire side, too.
Fuji is your next race. It’s such an iconic track. What’s it like to drive?
It’s a very special track. It’s the closest one to Tokyo. The atmosphere is very unique and the location is nice and close to Fuji mountain. The track layout has a long 1.6 km straight, so you need to be quick, but then there are two very high-speed corners, so we need lots of downforce. The last section is slow speed and we have five corners in second or third gears. It’s not easy to find the right balance to be quick on the straights and in the corners. It’s a very challenging track. I enjoy it every time.
Is Super GT popular in Japan?
It’s very popular. The races are live on TV. At the circuit you had close to 100,000 people watching the race before Covid-19. The fans come to the races wearing the team uniform like we wear, so the red t-shirts with Motul and Nissan on them. It’s a big promotion.
What are the cars in GT500 like?
The GT500 cars are the quickest touring cars in the world. All three manufacturers use the same carbonfibre monocoque. The cars all have over 550hp, 2.0-litre turbo racing engines and they weigh 1020kgs. For the drivers it’s great, because if you’re behind it’s because you need to work on the car or the tyres, not because of balance or performance.
How does the Nissan Z compare to the GT-R you drove last year?
I drove the GT-Rs for 14 seasons but we switched to the new Nissan Z from this season. It was a big change for Nissan but the GT-R still runs in the GT300 class. We’re up against the Honda NSX and Toyota Supra.
How similar are the cars to production models?
In the GT500 class, not many things are shared with the production cars – if you look from far away they look similar but when you get closer you can see the cars are totally different.
Motul is a partner of the team and a very visible sponsor on the car. Could you talk us through the partnership?
In Super GT, especially with the GT500 class, each car has the main sponsor on the car – ours is Motul. Even on the entry list, before the name of the car or team is the name of the main sponsor. So for us that’s Motul Nissan Z. Our car has a big Motul sticker on it. Even the fans and commentators call it the Motul car.
As a Motul AUTECH Z driver, what’s your view on the importance of its lubricants in this style of racing?
The collaboration between Nissan, Nismo and Motul has been going for almost 20 years. And I have been connected with them for about 10 years. Of course, the collaboration for the racing engine is so important. The technology in the engine is high with a lot of horsepower, so we’re on the limit. In Super GT we can only use two engines for one season. So it’s very important to push the engine to the limit but not so much that we break it. The oil plays a very important role in this and the collaboration between MOTUL and Nismo is crucial. On production cars side the collaboration among MOTUL, Nissan and NISMO is really close, and some specific oils have been developed together. Thanks to the data we have collected in motorsport, customers can drive their street cars with the best lubrification efficiency, on both during their daily driving and even when they are enjoying some driving sessions at the circuits with their cars.
How’s your Super GT season been going so far?
We’ve had three races. We had a podium in round one at Okayama with third position. It was great because we put the new car on the podium for the first race. In round two at Fuji we finished fourth and were battling for the podium, so it was a positive race. In round three at Suzuka we couldn’t score any points for a contact on track while having a good race. The potential is there. With the new Z we have so much potential, so it comes down to the small details like car set up and tyres. We are hoping we can fight for our first victory of the season in Fuji.