Did Sogo’s weather make the Nissan Z title inevitable?

Before the start of the year, we He wrote a story saying that a Michelin wet tire could prove to be Nissan’s secret weapon in this year’s SUPER GTAnd, that, depending on exactly when the rain arrives, could have a huge impact on the destination of this year’s title.

That’s in essence exactly what happened in Sogo, where NDDP Racing #3 Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi took advantage of the weather to shrug off their 68kg success handicap and win for the second time this season.

The SUPER GT’s handicap system was intentionally designed to make it nearly impossible for a team to win more than one race until Round Six, the final race where there are complete handicaps before being halved in Round 7 and removed completely at the end.

But the system can’t legislate for the weather, especially when one tire manufacturer has a clear advantage over the rest in the rain like two Michelin-shod Nissans when conditions were at their worst during last weekend’s Sogo race.

Bridgestone, Yokohama and Dunlop were no match for Sugo's wet Michelin

Bridgestone, Yokohama and Dunlop were no match for Sugo’s wet Michelin

To put Chiyo and Takaboshi’s win into context in terms of the weight of success, this is only the third time a car carrying a Stage 2 Fuel Flow Restrictor has won a race in a SUPER GT (nobody has won a Stage 3 race yet) and only the sixth time since the introduction of the SUPER GT system. Current rules In 2009, a car with a handicap over 50 kg took the square flag first.

It should also be noted that in the previous five cases, on only one occasion, the team in question did not go on to win the title that year.

Most heavyweight wins in the SUPER GT since 2009:

Event team / car drivers ballast Notes
Sogo 2018 Kunimitsu / Honda

United kingdom Jenson Button

Japan Naoki Yamamoto

80 kg
Fuji 2019 Lemans / Lexus

Japan Kazuya Oshima

Japan You were Yamashita

70 kg instigated before SC
Sogo 2022 NDDP / Nissan Racing

Japan Katsuyama Chiyo

Japan Mitsunori Takabushi

68 kg wet racing
Sogo 2015 Kunimitsu / Honda

Japan Takuya Aizawa

Japan Naoki Yamamoto

58 kg
Autopolis 2012 Mola / Nissan

Italia Ronnie Quintarelli

Japan Masataka Yanagida

58 kg wet racing
Autopolis 2009 TOMS / LEXUS

Germany Andre Lotterer

Japan Joichi Wakisaka

53 kg

The fact that the #3 Nissan ended up in front of the #23 NISMO Z eventually came for pit strategy rather than raw speed in the wet, but from 10th on the grid, Chiyo and Takaboshi likely won’t be close to the podium in the dry with the fuel flow restrictor in the stage the second.

It’s questionable whether the #23 lighter car from Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda (no fuel flow restriction but 44kg ballast) might be, given that Michelin appears to have long-term tire pickup problems in practice .

Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine’s Bridgestone-shod Impul Nissan, the only GT500 with the third-stage restriction, likely struggled to make a serious lead from 14th without the help of rain, yet managed to finish fifth thanks to some clever strategy and being Among the fastest non-Michelin cars on wet roads.

Conversely, other title contenders such as Team TOM’S, Team Honda Team Kunimitsu and Real Racing saw a golden opportunity to narrow the gap to points the leaders slip away as they struggled to get the Bridgestones to work in challenging mixed conditions.

Kunimitsu looked so good at the challenge to win in Sugo - until it started raining!

Kunimitsu looked so good at the challenge to win in Sugo – until it started raining!

The upshot is that Nissan heads into the final two rounds with three cars in the top three in the standings, with Chiyo/Takabushi Baguette/Hiramin leading by 3.5 points and Quintarelli/Matsuda trailing in third by 17 points. The highest non-Nissan team right now is Tom’s Crew #37 consisting of Sasha Finisteraz and Ritomu Miata in fourth with an 18-point lead.

With success handicaps halved, all three Nissan crews can head to Autopolis in anticipation of a mix to deliver a solid result, even if the NDDP Racing and Impul cars are expected to struggle in qualifying while carrying the first stage of the fuel flow restrictor.

Now, we have to be wary about declaring Nissan champion yet. At about this time last year, Honda was in a similarly strong position, with all three Bridgestone crews topping the rankings, and somehow Toyota managed to outsmart the NSX-GT squad for the position in the last round.

But somehow, this year has a different feel about it. While Honda was cashing in on points in 2021 at the final round at Fuji, Toyota’s stronghold, this time around, Z heads to Autopolis and then Motegi for the last two races.

And while Autopolis is something as little known as the performance of the Z, Nissan has already tested the Motegi once in pre-season and has another test planned there before the final race, although Bridgestone is also expected to have a Toyota and Honda sprinter each gift.

For the first time since 2019, Motegi will host this year's SUPER GT Decider Championship

For the first time since 2019, Motegi will host this year’s SUPER GT Decider Championship

If Nissan can limit the damage at Autopolis with two of its biggest competitors still at a disadvantage with fuel restrictions, it can head to Motegi in a very strong position as it tries to make it a triple title to the new GT500 base models (after 2004, with the Z original, and 2008 with the R35 generation GT-R that was used until last season).

After the race in Sogo, Takaboshi talked about his and Chiyo going to Autopolis with the goal of wrapping up the title with an extra round. It’s only happened twice in the history of the SUPER GT, first in 2007 and then again in 2012, and a third iteration seems unlikely as No. 3 will have to win with Impul Baguette and Hiramine’s pair failing to score.

However, in 2012, it was bad weather that allowed Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagida, leading the now-defunct MOLA team, to overlook their successful weigh-and-take and take the title with an additional tour of Autopolis.

If Paradise at the Kyushu circuit opens again next weekend, the first Nissan title since 2015 will certainly become a formality.

  • Broadcast every qualifying session and 2022 race excellent GT season only Motorsport.tv.
Chiyo (left) and Takaboshi (right) celebrate their victory over Sogo with NDDP Racing Team President Jiro Shimada (center)

Chiyo (left) and Takaboshi (right) celebrate their victory over Sogo with NDDP Racing Team President Jiro Shimada (center)

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