Nissan coy on Fuji chances despite "good start" at Okayama
Nissan remains cautious on its prospects of scoring a first SUPER GT victory for its Z GT500 challenger despite getting its 2022 campaign off to a “good start” at Okayama.
NISMO pair Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli delivered the new Z a debut podium finish last weekend as they charged through from ninth on the grid to finish third behind the winning Rookie Racing Toyota and the Team Kunimitsu Honda.
Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi meanwhile made it two Nissans in the top five at the wheel of the NDDP Racing-branded machine having started down in 14th.
It marked Nissan’s best start to a SUPER GT season in three years, and at a track that was not expected to be one of the better-suited venues to the brand’s new car.
Nissan’s SUPER GT executive director Motohiro Matsumura said he wasn’t fully satisfied with the weekend as a whole after a sub-par showing in qualifying, but was encouraged by the car’s performance in race conditions.
“To be honest it’s not a perfect situation for us if you combine qualifying and the race, but [it was good] as a starting point for the new Z,” Matsumura told Motorsport.com.
“From a performance standpoint, we have already found some good points. There are still some small things to improve but we are obviously more competitive than last year.
“Still [finishing third] did not reach our desires, but it was a good start.”
Nissan’s new Z was developed with a particular focus on improving the marque’s competitiveness at Fuji, which hosts the next round of the season in May.
But Matsumura nonetheless remains coy on Nissan’s chances of taking a first win with its new car in the 450km Golden Week classic.
“Still, it’s too difficult to expect [victory] because the other manufacturers showed good performance, and nobody knows how the final performance will be,” he said.
“But at least with the improvements we have made since last year, the car is more suited to the challenge. I hope [we can win], but nobody knows it. We will try and do our best.”
The relatively poor qualifying performance of the two NISMO-run Zs was put down by Quintarelli to an overly conservative tyre choice, as both Michelin runners sacrificed one-lap pace in favour of longevity in the race in expectation of higher temperatures.
That move paid off as the #23 and #3 machines made up a combined 15 places in the race to come home third and fifth respectively.
“Considering the likely conditions and temperature we expected at the end of the race, we needed to go into the second stint with a very stable tyre,” said Matsumura. “It wasn’t the perfect match for qualifying, but the tyre choice was not so bad in the end.”
- Stream every qualifying session and race of the 2022 SUPER GT season only on Motorsport.tv.
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