Click above for a huge, high-res gallery of Rd. 3 of the '08 SuperGT season.
After previous incarnations of the Nissan GT-R ran away with successive JGTC titles, Japan's GT Association decided to inflict "success ballast" on race winners in an attempt to level the playing field (i.e give Toyota and Honda a chance).
As the current GT-R race car is built to 2009 Super GT specifications, the GT-A handed it a weight penalty of 50kgs added right from the start of the season. After winning Round 1 in Suzuka car number 23 had to carry an additional 50kgs at Round 2 in Sugo, which it promptly won anyway. Then thanks to also setting numerous fastest laps and other speeding offenses it was deemed that Benoit Treluyer and Satoshi Motoyama's ride would have to port an massive 200ks (440lbs) of ballast at this weekend's race at Fuji Speedway.
That presents a couple of problems. Firstly, where the heck do you safely stow 200kgs of lead? And would the car meet GT-A regulations even if Nissan found a way to do it? The ruling body's compromise was to give the car a 115kg penalty and fit a stifling restrictor to the GT-R's air intake. That knocked 30kph off the GT-R's maximum velocity at the end of Fuji's 1.5km straight, and in the words of Benoit, "Gives us no chance at all."
Follow through the jump to find out if he was right, and to find out how Lightning McQueen faired in GT300 after qualifying on pole yesterday.
Three laps after the rolling start it was clear that Benoit's prediction was spot on. While Honda NSXs and Lexus SC430s battled for the lead, car number 23 was already slipping back towards the GT300 field rather than chasing down the leaders. Takashi Kogure had squeezed his Takata NSX on to pole, and managed to keep the lead until he spun on lap 22, gifting the lead to the Zent Cerumo Lexus SC430, first driven by Yuji Tachikawa, then by Richard Lyons after the second pit stop, then by Yuji again all the way to the checkered flag. Meanwhile, tactics worthy of Ron Dennis and Ross Brawn leap frogged Juichi Wakisaka and Andre Lotterer's SC430 from fifth to second over the 110 lap race.
1 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 Y.Tachikawa/R.Lyons 110 3:02'28.036
2 36 ETRONAS TOM'S SC430 J.Wakisaka/A.Lotterer 110 0'13.882
3 18 TAKATA DOME NSX R.Michigami/T.Kogure 110 0'15.893
It takes a lot to drown out the sound of 30 Super GT cars wailing down a mile long straight at full chat, but several thousand Japanese school kids managed just that when rookie Lightning McQueen took the lead in the closing stages of the race after arch rival
Chick Hicks the Cusco Subaru Impreza got called in to the pits, not once but twice for racing infractions. Recent returnee from Europe's GP2 championship Kohei Hirate had put in a masterful flying lap on super soft tires to seal pole position for McQueen on Saturday, but the team then gambled that the comparatively frugal 3.5-liter MR-S could manage all 500 kms with just one fuel stop and on two sets of hard rubber. Despite starting heavy, McQueen never dropped out of the top five, but the two drivers, who aren't much older than McQueen's fan base, didn't have it easy fighting first Porsches, then the Impreza and the Leopalace Z all the way to the flag.
1 95 Lightning McQueen apr MR-S K.Hirate/K.Kunimoto 101 3:02'34.661
2 46 MOLA LEOPALACE Z K.Hoshino/H.Yasuda 101 0'26.739
3 2 Privee KENZO Asset Shiden K.Takahashi/H.Katoh 101 0'44.019