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Nissan’s Quintarelli Confident for Suzuka After Fuji Discovery

Ronnie Quintarelli says lessons have been learned after ‘safe’ tire choice cost No. 23 Nissan chance of Fuji victory…

Photo: Nissan

Nissan driver Ronnie Quintarelli says he is heading into next week’s Suzuka SUPER GT round feeling confident having made a key discovery about the durability of Bridgestone’s tire offering last time out at Fuji Speedway.

The two NISMO-run Zs dominated the second round of the season earlier this month, as Mitsunori Takaboshi and Atsushi Miyake took victory in the No. 3 car ahead of the sister No. 23 car that Quintarelli shares with new teammate Katsumasa Chiyo.

Quintarelli endured a tough time in the middle stint at Fuji on a tire compound that was too hard for the conditions in only his second race back on Bridgestone rubber, allowing Takaboshi to race to a 35-second lead.

Chiyo was able to get the deficit to the lead Nissan down to 13 seconds by the end of the three-hour race after taking over for the final stint, having also been at the wheel of the No. 23 for the start.

For Suzuka, the No. 23 car will carry 44 kg of success ballast, while the No. 3 car will be hit with a stage one fuel flow restrictor as part of a nominal handicap of 54 kg.

Quintarelli feels that the experience NISMO gained at Fuji in terms of tire selection means he and Chiyo can head to Suzuka targeting another podium despite the extra weight.

“We are feeling very positive for Suzuka,” he told Sportscar365. “Even last year, we went there leading the championship and we already had 50 kg of ballast, even heavier than we are this year, and still we were fighting for the podium.

“Obviously there are some quick cars with low success weight, so it won’t be easy to beat them, especially in qualifying. 

“But it’s a three-hour race, and we are quite confident with how the Bridgestone is working with our car even when we choose quite an aggressive compound. 

“We had no data from Fuji on Bridgestone tires, and we thought we needed to be a bit careful not to have too much degradation, and we went quite ‘safe’ with our tire choice.

“But even with the more aggressive compound, the durability of the Bridgestone was so good and we had the performance. 

“Suzuka is quite tough on tires, so this was the positive point for us from Fuji.”

Quintarelli batted off concerns that the No. 3 car of Takaboshi and Miyake could assert their superiority within the NISMO camp following the events of Fuji.

“The No. 3 car chose completely different tires to us,” the Italian highlighted. “No one set was the same. 

“In the race I struggled for grip and with pick-up, but Chiyo felt comfortable with the tires he was using. I’m not thinking about the No. 3 car. 

“I’m more focused on the fact that I have a very fast and strong teammate. When he was in the car, he was very quick. It just motivates me to keep pushing.”

Quintarelli admitted that the pace of the No. 36 TOM’S Toyota of Sho Tsuboi and Kenta Yamashita, who finished fourth at Fuji with 46 kg of ballast on board following their win at Okayama, was a bigger concern for the season ahead.

Tsuboi and Yamashita will also have a stage one fuel flow restrictor for Suzuka as part of a nominal 62 kg handicap.

“They have no weak points,” Quintarelli said of the TOM’S drivers. “They are very strong, very consistent. Everything looks perfect for them.

“Now we are closer to them in terms of success weight, so it will be nice to see our performance against them at Suzuka. It should be closer than it was at Fuji.”

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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