The Motul Autech GT-R is a permanent fixture in the Super GT championship – a true icon, respected by friend and foe alike. We sat down with the two men who are able to tame this beast: Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.
As race drivers, what is it that makes the GT-R an icon?
Quintarelli: I came to Japan in 2003 and to be honest I didn’t know anything about the GT-R before that. In Italy, the whole tuning and customisation culture – which the GT-R was born from – is totally non-existent. My first encounter with the GT-R race car was on television, watching the JGTC in 2003. It was known as the R34 back then, and what an incredible machine it was. I was sold immediately. In 2008, I became a Nissan driver and got to race in it for the first time. The GT-R is just an incredible machine that really suits my style and it’s incredibly fast. Every time I get in it feels like the first time.
Matsuda: In the past, I used to race a Honda NSX, but whenever I was behind the wheel of that Honda I would wish I was racing the GT-R instead. (Laughs)
Tsugio-san: You’ve raced both the GT3 and the GT500. What’s the biggest difference between them?
They couldn’t be more different actually. They’re both great race cars, but if I had to describe them, I’d say that a the GT3 car is like a touring car while you steer the GT500 more like you would an F1 car. The GT500 is all about the aerodynamics.
Ronnie, you’re an Italian driver living and competing in Japan - what’s that like?
Quintarelli: When I first came here in 2003, I watched Super GT on television (back then it was called JGTC) and I saw both these categories battling it out on the same track. My first thought was - I could never do that, that’s madness. In Italy they love racing and motorsport too, but in Italy the show element is really important. But here in Super GT, it’s all about the cars. There’s hardly any glitz or glamour. It’s all about the machine, and I do like that.
Japan has so many great tracks to compete on. Which would be your personal favourites?
Quintarelli: It’s hard to say. Both Tsugio-san and I are the same age and so we both grew up watching F1. When I was a kid, I would wake up to watch Senna and Prost in the Suzuka GP. And from a technical point of view, Suzuka is such a great challenge. But then again, this track, Fuji, is equally amazing. It’s an amazing facility, close to Tokyo and drawing easily the biggest audience of the year. The atmosphere here is like nowhere else.
Matsuda: I agree with Ronnie, Suzuka is really a drivers’ circuit and is a genuine challenge. But Fuji provides the biggest spectacle, especially with that long straight where we reach speeds of over 300kph.
As factory drivers, have you done any development for the road cars?
Quintarelli: No, I’m only involved with the GT500 car.
Matsuda: I do some limited development work for the Nismo road cars as well, but most of the testing and development that I do as part of the GT500 programme is with the GT3 car.
What does Motul mean to you?
Quintarelli: I grew up with Motul actually. I remember my father’s company used to have a few bulldozers and some other machinery, and he would always use Motul. I think it’s one of the most important oil brands in sports, and they do make a difference in many ways.
Matsuda: I own a Nissan Skyline GT-R R C10 Hakoska – a very special classic Nissan GT-R. Motul is the only oil that will ever go into that car – ever! I think that says volumes about my appreciation of the brand and the product.