GT500 rookie Fukuzumi and teammate Tomoki Nojiri have had a rough start to the season in the #8 Honda NSX-GT, scoring a best finish of eighth place in the opening round of the season at Fuji Speedway – their only points finish in three races.
The pair had been fighting for the win in the second Fuji race, only for Nojiri to spin on his out-lap while under pressure from the Real Racing Honda of Koudai Tsukakoshi, while a mistake from Fukuzumi in the most recent race at Suzuka cost them a possible podium.
Fukuzumi misjudged his braking at the hairpin while trailing the SARD Toyota GR Supra of Yuichi Nakayama in the fight for third, making contact with Nakayama and causing terminal damage to the ARTA Honda.
“We lost a lost a lot of points,” Fukuzumi told Motorsport.com. “We had a lot of chances to take points [in the second race] at Fuji and last time at Suzuka.
“I really want to forget about the mistake I did. I was pushing too hard on the brakes and I hit the #39 [SARD] car at the hairpin, I broke the car at the front. That’s why we had to retire from that race… I feel still disappointed about that.”
#8 Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Honda NSX-GT: Tomoki Nojiri, Nirei Fukuzumi
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Fukuzumi and Nojiri go into this weekend’s Motegi race with only 8kg of ballast, while points leaders Yuhi Sekiguchi and Sacha Fenestraz will be saddled with an effective handicap of 82kg, including a stage two fuel flow restrictor.
The heaviest Honda will be the Team Kunimitsu car shared by Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino, who sit third in the standings, with a 52kg handicap.
Fukuzumi said: “I think it’s a good chance to win, because everybody else has a lot of weight. But at the moment we are struggling with the pace in qualifying.
“We were P14 [in Suzuka] I struggled with big oversteer. Motegi is different compared to Suzuka, but still we need to change the set-up because I feel a lot of oversteer on the corner entry and also under braking, and [at Motegi] braking is really important.
“So we really need to change the set-up, maybe a lot, and we really need to win the race for the championship.”
Elsewhere in the Honda camp, Makino said he and Yamamoto will be merely aiming for points at Motegi after kick-starting their title bid with second place behind the NISMO Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda at Suzuka.
“Now we are fighting for the championship, we are third and we have a 52kg handicap, so I think it’s going to be a difficult weekend,” Makino told Motorsport.com.
“We need to think about the championship, so we just need to get some points. We’ll see what we can do. But I think we can fight for the championship.”
#100 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT: Naoki Yamamoto, Tadasuke Makino
Photo by: Masahide Kamio