Suzuka 10 Hours preparations continue with two-day test

24 May 2018

Suzuka’s two-day Intercontinental GT Challenge test came to an end earlier today after a number of Japanese teams took the chance to gain extra mileage ahead of the upcoming 10-hour race.

The iconic figure-of-eight Formula 1 circuit hosts Asia’s Intercontinental GT Challenge round for the first time on August 24-26 and kicked off its preparations for the 47th Summer Endurance Race by staging a free test.

The top priority for several teams was a chance to sample Pirelli’s P Zero DHD2 tyre compound, which was introduced at the start of 2018. With persistent rain preventing any dry running on Wednesday, that opportunity first arrived earlier today.

D’station Racing’s Porsche driven by Tomonobu Fujii topped both the morning and afternoon sessions, while his best of 2m01.146s was 0.095s faster than Goodsmile Racing & Team Ukyo’s Tatsuya Kataoka, whose Mercedes-AMG ended the day second overall. The Audi Team Hitotsuyama R8 LMS GT3, which paced Wednesday’s wet running, also set the third fastest dry time thanks to Richard Lyons.

Joining Hitotsuyama for the test was reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge champion Markus Winkelhock who helped Audi’s Japanese customer team transition to Pirelli’s new tyre. 

“Trying to learn a new circuit as technical as Suzuka in the wet isn’t ideal, but we were still P1 in both of yesterday’s sessions and today was also good in the dry,” said the German, whose exact programme for the Suzuka 10 Hours remains unconfirmed. “This week has been about helping the team understand the new tyre, which we’ve been using in Europe since the start of the year, so they have some data to work with before the 10 Hours. Suzuka is a tough circuit that puts a lot of load through the tyres but I was surprised how well they stood up over a long run.”

This was Winkelhock’s first visit to Japan, let alone Suzuka, and the experience has left him eager to return. 

“The team are great to work with – everything’s very organised, almost to Formula 1’s level in some ways, and there’s no issues with communication either. The Japanese teams will be very strong on home soil in August,” he added. “But I was also amazed at the number of fans at Suzuka for the test. It’s clear they love motor racing – their support is incredible.”

The Total 24 Hours of Spa hosts round two of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge on July 26-29 before the Suzuka 10 Hours takes centre stage one month later (August 24-26). The Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours closes out the campaign, which began in February at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, on October 26-28.

ABOUT THE SUZUKA 10 HOURS

The Suzuka 10 Hours, which becomes Asia’s sole leg of the Intercontinental GT Challenge this season, is being jointly administered by SRO Motorsports Group, Super GT organisers GT Association, and Suzuka’s management company Mobilityland Corporation.

Uniquely, the race offers FIA GT3 cars from all over the world an opportunity to compete equally against Japanese teams running similar machinery and the JAF GT-spec chassis only found in Super GT’s GT300 category.

August’s 47th Summer Endurance Race builds on the legacy of Suzuka’s previous 1000-kilometre event. Although best known previously as Super GT’s blue riband round, the race has also featured on the FIA GT Championship, BPR Series, World Sportscar Championship and All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship schedules since its establishment in 1966.

Pirelli has been chosen as the event’s official tyre supplier while prize money totalling 100-million Yen has also been confirmed.