Nissan now has “no excuses” after poor Fuji opener

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Nissan now has “no excuses” after poor Fuji opener
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Ronnie Quintarelli says there are “no more excuses” for Nissan in this weekend’s second Fuji SUPER GT round after a disappointing start to the year for the brand.

Nissan’s revamped GT-R was off the pace of its GT500 competitors at the curtain raiser three weeks ago, with NDDP/B-Max Racing pair Katsumasa Chiyo and Kohei Hirate scoring the Yokohama marque’s best result of seventh place.

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The factory NISMO car shared by Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda suffered an even worse start to its campaign, finishing a lap down in 11th after Matsuda made contact with a GT300-class Nissan and pitted for a second time.

For Quintarelli, who made his pre-season ambitions of scoring Nissan’s first GT500 title for five years clear, the fact the second round is taking place at the same venue as the opener leaves NISMO with nowhere to hide after a detailed analysis of what went wrong.

“We were not happy with the results of the pre-season test in Fuji and for Round 1 we introduced a bit of an extreme solution for the car set-up in order to have some direction for Round 2,” Quintarelli told Motorsport.com. “Unfortunately, what we introduced does not work as we expected, but at least we could collect data.

“Before the season, I was saying Round 1 would be like a test, but in Round 2 there are no excuses. The tyre choice is perfect for the weather forecast, and the car set-up we analysed a lot. We should have the best package of what we can have at the moment.”

Ronnie Quintarelli(#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R)

Ronnie Quintarelli(#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Nissan’s other international GT500 driver Jann Mardenborough started the year with 10th place in the Kondo Racing GT-R he is sharing with Mitsunori Takaboshi.

But worryingly, the Yokohama-shod car was just over a minute away from the winning TOM'S Toyota at the finish – representing a time loss of well over two seconds a lap in the final part of the race after the second safety car period.

While none of the Nissans played a starring role in the race, Mardenborough admitted Kondo was suffering particularly badly with handling and that alleviating this problem has been a key focus for the team ahead of this weekend’s second round.

“In Round 1 it was clear to see where the weakness compared to the other manufacturers was; we weren’t so strong in a straight line,” Mardenborough told Motorsport.com.

“Within Kondo we had some other things that we needed to improve on. But it’s slowly getting better. A direction is being forged, a change of concept.

“We were struggling to turn the car properly, which amplified the original problem of being too slow on the straight. The solution has been a mix of raw power and optimising the set-up, but for Kondo, just exiting the last corner better makes a huge difference."

#24 Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R

#24 Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Helping Nissan’s case this weekend at Fuji is SUPER GT’s trademark success ballast system, with the winning Toyota having to carry around an extra 42kg of weight and the sister TOM’S machine being handed a 30kg penalty for its second place finish last time out.

Not carrying any weight, Quintarelli managed to put the #23 car in fifth on the grid during qualifying on Saturday, a place behind the best of the GT-Rs, the #12 Impul car.

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Quintarelli points out that all four of his title-winning GT500 campaigns up to now started with poor results (in 2015, he and Matsuda finished as low as 13th in the Okayama opener), but he concedes that beating the TOM’S cars this weekend is critical.

“Maybe just the two TOM’S cars will be affected this weekend, from P3 downwards the weight is not so much,” said the Italian. “We need to make sure the two TOM’S cars don’t finish in front of us, otherwise it will be hard for the rest of the season.

“The potential of the other cars should still be clear this weekend. As a first step it would be nice to fight for the podium. I don’t want to say more than that.”

As for Mardenborough, the targets from the back of the GT500 grid are more modest, but he believes that the following round at Suzuka could offer he and Kondo a chance to shine.

“At Fuji the weight can make a big difference, but at Suzuka it’s even bigger,” said the Briton. “By then it will bring us into contention more.

“I expect car #24 to be aiming for P7 or P8 this weekend. I think that’s our potential. The Yokohama [Mugen] Honda was P6 in practice, so there’s pace in the tyre.

“We do have pace, but our operating window is quite narrow. We just need to constantly get the car in that window to fight for podiums.”

#3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R、#12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R、#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R、#24 Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R

#3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R、#12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R、#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R、#24 Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

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