The Michelin and Nissan NISMO partnership has yielded the fourth Super GT Championship in five years in the GT500 category, following the season’s finale at Motegi 250km, last weekend.
The No.1 NISMO-run Motul Nissan GT-R were forced to start the Motegi GT 250Km Race, final round of Japan’s 2015 Super GT Championship, from 12th on the grid after an extremely wet qualifying session. Even so, drivers Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda were determined to finish at least fifth and, above all, ahead of the No.12 car (Yasuda/De Oliviera) which began the weekend with a three-point advantage over the Nissan squad in the Teams’ standings and two points clear in the Drivers’ classification.
Prior to the start, the staff at NISMO and its partner Michelin Motorsport were tense and extremely focused on their mission since success in Super GT is as much a question of prestige as it is an indication of technical supremacy. Despite facing fierce competition from three local tyre makers, Michelin rose to the challenge in style to claim three of the past four titles, including the 2014 crown with NISMO and Quintarelli/Matsuda.
The track was wet and the weather overcast for the start of this year’s Motegi GT 250Km Race but brighter sky was visible on the horizon and the local forecasters predicted sunshine before the chequered flag. As a result, the crews faced a mixed bag of conditions, making tyre versatility a potentially crucial factor which boosted Michelin’s hopes of a strong result.
Quintarelli was nominated to line up on the grid in the N°1 GT-R and a good getaway saw him gain a place immediately. His speed then saw him carve his way up the order to figure in sixth spot, just 13 seconds behind the N0.12 car, by the end of Lap 13. The car’s tyres were clearly at ease on the drying track and Quintarelli put in a sequence of quick laps to close the gap to his team’s championship rival to nine seconds. After the stop, Matsuda took over and was made to work from second place, and further back the Yasuda/De Oliviera machine appeared to be having trouble getting its rubber up to temperature. They started losing ground back in fourth.
After a short Safety Car period to remove debris from the track, Twin Ring Motegi served as backdrop to a particularly thrilling battle in the Super GT class as Matsuda eased into the lead with 14 laps remaining, chased by the No.37 car which hadn’t said its last word. Matsuda provided a breathtaking display as he passed numerous GT300s before falling back to second spot when he had to take action to avoid a collision that could have compromised NISMO’s title chances.
The No.1 GT-R finally crossed the line in second spot, two places clear of the No.12 car, to claim the 2015 Super GT title for Nissan NISMO.
In post-race, Quintarelli commented, “This was the hardest championship to win. We had no margin for error. In certain situations, we were even perhaps a little behind, as we saw in qualifying. In the race, however, we succeeded in making the very most of our Michelin tyres.”
So, Nissan NISMO and Michelin succeeded in their quest to capture the Super GT title for the fourth time in five years.