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Nissan’s Okayama Challenge Blunted by Late FCY

Katsumasa Chiyo, Ronnie Quintarelli reflect on low-key run to fifth place in Okayama SUPER GT opener…

Photo: Nissan

Nissan SUPER GT driver Katsumasa Chiyo feels his recovery drive in last weekend’s Okayama season opener was blunted by a late full-course yellow period.

Chiyo and his teammate in the No. 23 Nissan Z NISMO, Ronnie Quintarelli, opened their campaign with a fifth-place finish from sixth on the grid, ending up as the marque’s highest finisher ahead of the sister No. 3 car of Mitsunori Takaboshi and Atsushi Miyake.

Starting driver Quintarelli lost places on the opening lap as he was forced wide by the Rookie Racing Toyota of Kazuya Oshima, initially dropping to ninth but recovering a position when Bertrand Baguette made an early pit stop following first-lap contact.

Chiyo took over the No. 23 car on lap 31 of 82, with a relatively early stop allowing the NISMO crew to gain back two places lost at the start with an undercut before Chiyo passed the No. 3 car of Miyake for fifth place on lap 43.

At the time, Chiyo was running close behind the Cerumo Toyota in the fight for fourth, but the Japanese driver felt that the FCY being deployed on lap 65 after the Team Mach Toyota 86 Mother Chassis got stranded at Hobbs Corner took away his momentum

“Ronnie’s start felt quite good, but it was unfortunate that he got involved in an accident shortly afterward, causing him to lose position,” commented Chiyo.

“I think it’s a positive thing that I was able to stay calm and drive consistently until the end while adapting to the new Bridgestone tires, and I was able to compete hard in the race.

“However, towards the end, the tires cooled down during the FCY, and I couldn’t pick up the pace to regain a higher position. I feel that addressing this issue is a challenge.

“Nevertheless, we were able to gather a lot of tire data, and I believe it was a very successful race in terms of learning for the future.”

Chiyo had been the fastest driver in terms of individual lap times in qualifying, leading the way in Q1, but Quintarelli was unable to replicate that speed in Q2 using the same set of tires, only managing the 10th-best time in Q2.

While taking the blame for the team’s lacklustre grid position, the Italian driver was at least satisfied to complete a full race distance in what was the NISMO team’s first race on Bridgestone tires following its off-season switch from Michelin rubber.

“I’m a bit disappointed for not having been able to drive in qualifying like the team expected and not having provided the maximum possible contribution in search of victory,” said Quintarelli.

“However, fifth place is still a positive result that provided us with a great deal of data, especially regarding the Bridgestone tires. That data will give us the chance to make great preparations for the second round of the year.”

Finishing fifth means that Chiyo and Quintarelli will go into the next round at Fuji Speedway in May carrying 12 kg of success ballast, versus 46 kg for the race-winning TOM’S Toyota GR Supra of Sho Tsuboi and Kenta Yamashita.

“Looking at it from the perspective of success weight, we can expect a good situation for the next race,” added Quintarelli.

“The next one at Fuji is a special race for me as I can race in front of many fans, so I’ll try for a good result.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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