The Yokohama marque’s hopes of a first GT500 title since 2015 took a blow in last week’s Fuji 500km Golden Week classic as the #23 GT-R shared by Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda suffered a spectacular blow-up at the start of the third lap of the 110-lap contest.
It means Quintarelli and Matsuda head to Suzuka later this month with no points on the board, after they were eliminated from the opening round at Okayama in an accident.
That does mean however they will be carrying no success ballast at a track where the GT-R earned both of its victories in 2020.
NISMO COO Motohiro Matsumura admits that it will be crucial for Quintarelli and Matsuda to take advantage of this situation to remain serious contenders for this year’s championship.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, the #23 car has no ballast, so we will have similar conditions to last year [before Suzuka Round 3],” Matsumura told Motorsport.com. “If it’s possible to utilise our aerodynamic character, I strongly hope we can repeat last year’s win.”
Asked if the race can be considered ‘must-win’ for Nissan’s title hopes, Matsumura replied: “Unfortunately, Suzuka is only on the calendar once this year, so of course.”
Matsumura said it was too early to be certain of the exact cause of the #23 car’s engine failure, but denied any suggestions that the NISMO machine was ‘turned up’ more than the other three GT-Rs in the GT500 class, which all made it to the finish of the Fuji race safely.
“I wonder if some electrical issue may have impacted operation of the and caused an abnormal issue because the other Nissans have finished without engine trouble,” he said. “But anyway, we have to investigate.
“All four cars are producing the same horsepower, there is no extreme tuning, but I suppose unexpected things can happen. I don’t think there is any common or specific issue. We need to investigate the specific environmental conditions of the #23 car on that lap.”
Once again, Nissan’s top finisher at Fuji was the #3 NDDP/B-Max car of Katsumasa Chiyo and Kohei Hirate in fifth place – albeit over 30 seconds down on the leading four cars.
#3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Matsumura said the result was roughly in line with its expectations around a track that doesn’t favour the GT-R.
“In qualifying, the [best] sector times of the #3 car were exactly the same as the #23 car with the same tyre, so they had the potential to be in the same position [P7],” said Matsumura.
“Compared to last year at Fuji, the discrepancy to our rivals was less. But the aerodynamics were frozen for this year, so the track is still not suiting the characteristics of our car.
“At Fuji, P5-P7 is about the expected result. We can confirm there has been some progress, and the key improvement point from last year is the fuel economy, but our rivals have also progressed.”