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Fuji Weekend Notebook

René de Boer’s weekend notebook from the Super GT x DTM Dream Race in Japan…

Photo: Rebocar/René de Boer

***Victory for Narain Karthikeyan in the race on Sunday marked the first win of the season for the Nakajima Honda driver. “We have been on the podium already, but this success is a great feeling,” he commented.

***It was also the final race win for the current generation of the Honda NSX-GT with the mid-engine, which will be replaced by the new front-engine Class 1 car for the 2020 season.

***Naokii Hattori, a former Japanese F3 and touring car champion and also one of the winning drivers of the 1991 Spa 24 Hours with a Nissan Skyline, served as the race director for the two races, assisted by Sven Stoppe, the DTM’s permanent race director.

***BMW driver Marco Wittmann celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday. He was presented with a huge birthday cake and his girlfriend made the trip to Fuji for the occasion as a surprise.

***A first for DTM was the ‘Circuit Safari’, a popular activity and a good tradition at motor race events in Japan in which spectators get the possibility to win tickets for a passenger ride in buses at the track while race cars are going around at the same time. Six buses with 50 passengers each took part in the special session.

***Japanese Honda driver Daisuke Nakajima drove his final race at Fuji Speedway on Sunday. The 30-year-old son of former driver and Super GT team owner Satoru Nakajima and the younger brother of driver Kazuki competed for the family-owned Nakajima Racing team.

***As of next year, automotive supplier Bosch will have a three-year official partnership with the Japanese Super GT series, for which it will supply several control parts from next season, as it is already has been doing in the DTM for many years. Masaaki Bandoh, president of Super GT promoter GTA, and Klaus Meder, president of the Bosch Corporation in Japan, announced the deal during a press conference on Friday.

***At the occasion of the Bosch press conference, the three new cars from Honda, Nissan and Toyota for the 2020 Super GT season were on display.

***2020 will be the first season the full GT500 field will run to the Class 1 regulations that already came into force in the DTM this year. So far, the mid-engine configuration of the Honda NSX prevented the full implementation of these rules in the Japanese series, but for the new generation, the NSX has been equipped with a front engine.

***Two races of 50 minutes each were held for GT300 cars in a support event named Auto Sport Web Sprint Cup. GT300 cars normally race together with the GT500 class at regular Super GT events. Hiroki Yoshimoto and Ritomo Miyata won both races of the 12-car field with their Synthium LM Corsa Lexus RC-F GT3.

***Fifty-four cars participated in a one-make series race for compact-sized Toyota Netz cars. In line with the low-budget concept of the entry-level series, the cars were almost fully in standard trim, including passenger seat, rear seat and regular dashboard configuration.

***While Audi had chosen all four of its DTM teams, Abt, Phoenix, Rosberg and WRT, to run one car each at Fuji, BMW had all three of its cars operated by Bart Mampaey’s Belgian outfit RBM. The team had previous experience from racing in Japan as a part of its participation in the now-defunct FIA World Touring Car Championship.

***For the WRT outfit, it was double duty this weekend. Belgian ex-racer Thierry Tassin, a four-time winner of the Spa 24 Hours, oversaw the DTM operation of Benoît Tréluyer’s car at Fuji while Vincent Vosse and Pierre Dieudonne were in charge of the team at the nine-hour Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli race at Kyalami.

***Tassin made the trip from Macau, where WRT ran Audis in the FIA GT World Cup and the FIA WTCR races last weekend.

***Phoenix Racing also had back-to-back weekends with Macau and Fuji, with team principal Ernst Moser and team manager Dirk Theimann having come straight from Macau to Japan on Monday.

***In spite of the opening round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship taking place in Saudi Arabia on the same weekend, both Audi and BMW had its respective heads of motorsport, Dieter Gass and Jens Marquardt, present at Fuji.

***Aston Martin did have a presence with three cars on display in the fan area behind the grandstand of Fuji Speedway, even though its brand was absent from the race itself.

***It is understood that the four Aston Martin Vantage DTM cars run under the R-Motorsport banner in this year’s DTM have been sold to China. The contract between R-Motorsport and HWA for the development, construction and running of the cars having been terminated at the end of the season, it is still unknown who will build and run the Aston Martins in the DTM next year, in spite of R-Motorsport’s repeated commitment to the series.

***Dr. Florian Kamelger, co-owner of R-Motorsport, was present at Fuji on Friday for the meeting of the so-called ‘steering committee’ that includes members from the Super GT and DTM organizations GTA and ITR as well as the heads of motorsports from the participating brands R-Motorsport/Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota/Lexus.

***Intense discussions were held on Saturday evening to determine whether or not a Balance of Performance would be put in place for the race on Sunday. In spite of the obvious speed advantage of the Super GT cars compared to the DTM machinery, it was decided not to impose any modifications.

***Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi got his first taste of a DTM car this weekend as he raced for BMW at Fuji. Marquardt knew Kobayashi from the time when they both worked together in the Toyota Formula 1 team. “We have various connections with Toyota, so we quickly got permission for (Toyota works driver) Kamui to race for us here,” Marquardt said.

René de Boer (@renedeboer) is a German-based motorsports journalist, contributing to a variety of publications worldwide, including Autosport.nl, Autosport Japan and Motorsport aktuell.

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