【SUPER GT Round 3 / Suzuka Circuit】

Realize Corporation ADVAN Z Finishes 3-Hour Race In Points, Uni-Robo Bluegrass Ferrari Makes Podium Finish In GT300

SUPER GT Round 3

Date 1-2 June 2024
Course Suzuka Circuit
Weather Race : Cloudy, Qualify : Fine
Surface Race : Dry, Qualify : Dry
Race Times 3hours
(1Lap = 5,807m)

The third round of the 2024 Super GT series took place at Suzuka Circuit. The 5,807m-long race track is the longest among the major Japanese circuits that Super GT regularly visits. Because of its challenging layout, which many world-renowned racing drivers praise highly, and the characteristics of its track surfaces, it is also said to be one of the severest circuits in terms of strain on tires.

This round was held as the season’s second 3-hour time race. As you may remember, WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra (Yuji Kunimoto / Sena Sakaguchi) scored a dramatic upset win last year.

On Friday, May 31st, when the teams were busy installing and setting up for the weekend, the sky was overcast, and the air temperature stayed relatively low. But the weather became fine on the qualifying day, Saturday, June 1st; the temperature rose to 24 degrees centigrade at 9:45, when the one-hour and 45-minute official practice session began. The sunlight was strong, but the track temperature was only 34 degrees which was lower than supposed, probably because of a light shower overnight.

In the GT500 class, Teppei Natori, who shared Realize Corporation ADVAN Z with Tugio Matsuda, clocked 1’46”532 during the exclusive section for the GT500 cars and was ranked eighth. As for the GT300, JLOC Lamborghini GT3 (Takashi Kogure / Yuya Motojima) was the fastest Yokohama Tire user but settled for lowly 12th. In contrast with the top-three lockout in the previous Fuji round, the GT300 Yokohama users seemed to get off to a struggling start.

The trend continued into the qualifying. Realize Corporation ADVAN Z ended the session in ninth, as Natori was the eighth fastest in Q1, and Matsuda was the ninth. Sakaguchi’s time in Q2 in WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra was only 76 hundredth of a second shy of Matsuda’s time, but the Supra’s final position in the qualifying was 12th because of the combined time rules.

Uni-Robo Bluegrass Ferrari (Yoshiaki Katayama / Roberto Merhi Muntan) secured the fifth grid in the GT300 class. After ending the practice in 15th, they made some setup adjustments toward qualifying, and Katayama and Merhi Muntan responded with their efforts on the track, which resulted in fifth place in the session.

The forecast said that, on Sunday, June 2nd, there would be some rain at Suzuka Circuit around noon. And the prediction was accurate, as heavy rain came about noon when the warm-up session before the race was getting underway. The rain quickly wetted the whole track, so the teams were forced to cope with the sudden condition change because they had only been running their cars under the dry conditions until then on the weekend. This meant that most cars had to make multiple pit stops during the session for the tire change or the setup adjustment, which made the pit lane so busy.

Fortunately, the 20-minute warm-up ended without significant incident, and the race-starting procedures followed. At almost the same time, sunlight peeked out from between the clouds, and then it settled back into the clear sky swiftly, to a surprising extent. Therefore, the water that wetted the tarmac evaporated quickly under the blue sky, and the conditions turned dry when the cars began to take their starting grids. Consequently, the teams were busy again changing the tires or reverting to the initial dry setup!

The formation lap went underway at 13:30, and all cars departed with the slick tires. The 3-hour race began quietly, and there were no hot battles in the early stage, probably because they thought it was still a long way to go.

Realize Corporation ADVAN Z started the race with Matsuda behind the wheel and came up to eighth by making a successful overtaking on Lap 7. With the four cars just ahead of him fighting closely with each other, all within a one-second gap, he could keep up with the group but couldn’t afford to make the slightest mistake as the car he had passed closed in from behind. Still, he eventually remained in eighth until Lap 29, when he headed to the pit lane to change to Natori.

Natori’s pace was good in the first half of his stint, and he floated to the interim sixth at one time as other cars made their pit stop. However, he started to struggle to maintain the pace toward the end of his stint. While he held the same position until Lap 49, he lost a few places and returned to the pit for their second stop at the end of Lap 60.

Matsuda got in the car again and went to the track for the final stint with the fresh set of tires. After rejoining the race in the interim ninth, he set the car’s fastest lap of the race, 1’49″958, on Lap 63, which was ranked in the top five in the class.

He kept pushing for the remaining laps but, unfortunately, couldn’t catch the car ahead of him and improve the position. Thus, Realize Corporation ADVAN Z finished the 3-hour race in ninth and earned their season’s first championship points.

WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra finished the race in 12th, one lap behind the eventual winner. Kunimoto drove the car during the first two stints before handing it to Sakaguchi for the third and last stint.

In the GT300 class, Uni-Robo Bluegrass Ferrari started from the fifth grid and gained a position immediately. The starting driver of the car, Katayama, drove at an excellent pace until Lap 30, when he came in and changed to Merhi Muntan. While they had to give a position to a direct opponent, who opted not to replace a tire at the stop, the Spaniard closed the gap with it in the final stint, utilizing his fresher tires. Then, he finally overtook it at Hairpin Corner on Lap 69, moving up to third.

Merhi Muntan tried to improve his position further during the remaining 30 minutes, but it wasn’t possible because the gap with the top two had opened up while he was fighting for third place. Still, they were glad to get on the podium for the first time this year after finishing the season opener in tenth and the previous round in 13th.

Drivers’ Voice


【Result : 9th. in the GT500 class】

“We secured a single-digit position in the qualifying this time. And we could fight with other Zs during the race’s first stint. I feel the tires are getting better, step by step. In the final stint, I pushed really hard and set a time in the 1’49” level, but it wasn’t enough to catch up with the car ahead of us. Having said that, we managed to get a few points. We hope to build on this and improve our performance. We’ll have a testing session during the two-month break before the next round. We, drivers, plan to work out even harder for the next race in parallel with the further development work of the tires.”


【Result : 9th. in the GT500 class】

“My pace early in my stint was good, but I struggled with the rubber pick-up from the middle stage, which prevented me from catching up as I wanted. We have to overtake the GT300 cars during a race, and it means we are forced to go through the dirty part of the track and pick up the tire marbles. I have to say the issues we have had since the pre-season test were still there, but I felt we were in a better position to fight with the cars around us this time in comparison with the season’s first two races. We are going to have a two-month gap until the next race, and a testing session is planned in the interval. Looking to the next Fuji round and the second half of the season, I believe this testing will be critical. We’d like to maintain the positives we took from this race and try to overcome the issues in the race.”

Yuji Kunimoto (WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra)

【Result : 12th. in the GT500 class】

“We won the Suzuka round last year, so I expected that we would be able to have a strong race again. But our pace wasn’t as good as last year, and we struggled with the tire pick-up. We, as a team and its drivers, did everything we could and executed the best possible strategy, still we had a tough race as our opponents just pulled away from us. Through the coming testing opportunity, I hope to find out something that could lead to improvement, even if it is a small step, to enhance our performance in qualifying and enable us to drive solidly in a race.”

Sena Sakaguchi (WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra)

【Result : 12th. in the GT500 class】

“I was confident about this Suzuka round. But things didn’t go smoothly, as we had a problem at the beginning of the practice, and we just lacked performance. Because we couldn’t complete the preparations for the race on Saturday, we had to go in cold on Sunday, I would say. Specifically, the adjustment to the lower track temperature, compared to the last year’s conditions, was inadequate. The performance in the low temperature time of the season has long been one of our weak points, and I guess the same thing happened here at Suzuka again. We will have testing during the interval by the next race, so I hope to find some good solutions, which would help us fight under the low temperature conditions and utilize them in the second half of the season. If we find them out, I believe they could improve our performance in the high temperature season as well, which could be useful in the coming races.”


【Result : 3rd. in the GT300 class】

“I overtook a car at the start, which I am always good at, and could keep up with the leading cars’ pace after that. We experienced some tire degradation during the practice and were a little worried about our race pace, to be honest. But everything was okay on Sunday, and we could fight with the cars around. Robert set some remarkable lap times with a fresh set of tires in his stints, so I could watch him closing in on the leaders with an easy mind. I am really happy with this podium finish because the previous two races were tough for us.”


【Result : 3rd. in the GT300 class】

“I took too long to overtake the no.31 car (note: the car which had got ahead of him by not changing any tire at the stop). It was a shame that I used my tire too much during the fight and that the top two could increase the gap with me before I passed the car. Given our performance today, I could have closed in on the top two further if I had finished the battle sooner. But I am happy about the satisfying race we had and getting a good result.”

Engineer’s Voice

Takayuki Shiraishi [The Yokohama Rubber Co.,LTD. Motorsports Tire Development Dept. No.1 Tire Development Division]

“We incorporated what we learned from the previous round and the testing at Suzuka into the tires we brought in here. As for Realize Corporation ADVAN Z, thanks to the team’s deep consideration of the car setup, I had an impression that the car could fight more closely with others than before. The temperatures were low for this time of year, and it was positive that we could see some improvement in the warm-up characteristics. On the other hand, the performance consistency at a circuit that is hard on the tires wasn’t satisfactory, and the combined performance of the car and the tires was still below the level we were at last year. So, these areas are our development targets in the coming test session. Regarding WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra, we had expectations and a certain level of confidence since they were the winner of the Suzuka round last year. However, they suffered heavily from tire pick-up because of low-temperature conditions. The crew of the no.24 car (Realize Corporation ADVAN Z) also reported the same issue. We need to identify whether the tire pick-up issue simply comes from the temperature conditions or if there is any other factor. And then, we will take some measures against it from both aspects of compound and construction.

“The lower temperatures than last year also influenced the results in the GT300 class. At the same time, we suppose that the changes in the construction might affect how the compound works. However, concerning Uni-Robo Bluegrass Ferrari, the team adjusted the car’s setup to make the tires work better during the practice, which I think led to this excellent result.

“We have test sessions for both GT500 and GT300 classes during a two-month break before the next round. For the GT500 class, our target is to overcome the issues we faced during the first half of the season. Therefore, we will try to figure out the tire specifications that are more suitable to this year’s cars and to provide the improved version for the races in the summer months. For the GT300 class, we can’t narrow down our targets because we have to deal with many different types of cars. But it is true that there are some common issues among multiple car models, so we will take necessary measures to enhance the performance of all users while we need to prioritize for those challenges.”