SUPER GT 2023 Final Round at Motegi: Pacing Troubles and Unpredictable Weather, the Team Races on Despite Overwhelming Odds
On 4-5 November, Igor Omura Fraga competed in the final round (300 km race) of the Super GT series at the Mobility Resort Motegi located in Tochigi with his teammate Yuga Furutani for ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage.
An unusually difficult race week
The stage for the final round of the Super GT Series 2023 would be Motegi, a circuit with a series of consecutive full throttle to full braking segments. The unique characteristics of the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3 make it a poor match for this kind of stop-and-go racing, so the team had been expecting a difficult race.
In addition, the team experienced difficulties with the tyres they brought to the track. The actual conditions on track were different from their expectations so the unsuitable selection of tyres kept drivers from being able to create the kind of pace they had hoped.
Fraga meets with the engineers
Igor Fraga's initials, IF, light up the front position display on the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3
"It's thanks to Igor Fraga's speed that we were able to get through Q1 and into Q2." Recalls Team Director Katsumi Takeda.
In unfavorable conditions, Fraga headed onto the track for Q1. He set the 7th best time out of 13, putting the team through to the next qualifier. The team finished Q2, putting them in 15th position in the starting grid of 25 GT300 cars.
In a bold strategy, the team consider a 'no tyre' change race
The final event arrived. There were no happy faces in the pits as the daunting task of running a 300 km race on the wrong tyres weighed heavily on the team’s shoulders.
At 1:00pm on Sunday, 5 November, the race began, with Fraga taking the first stint. Fraga considered carefully what strategy to race and defend his 15th place position.
"Compared to the other teams, our car just didn’t have the performance. It was going to be a difficult race. So, I really had no other choice in strategy just to drag the car through as many laps as I could myself before handing over to Futurani."
With a difficult race ahead of them, the team put together a number of possible strategies.
They could have tried to keep tyre wear to a minimum and save time when changing drivers by eliminating the need of a tyres swap. Or, like in Round 6 where they saw a lot of one-sided tyre wear, they could have tried changing tyres on only one side of the car. For this race, there was also the possibility of changing only the rear tyres.
"We had already realised there was no way we could beat our rivals in a head-to-head, so we decided we needed a bold strategy if we wanted a chance to get ahead. If it were possible, we wanted to go with a no tyre change strategy which would save us the most time. So, I took the first stint and tried to keep going as long as I could while keeping an eye on the condition of the car." Recanted Fraga.
Patiently following in the tracks of his rivals ahead, Fraga kept a watchful eye on the state of his tyres and discussed with his team over the radio.
"Partway though, our pace started to pick up a bit. I was beginning to wonder if we'd be able to come through with a no-change strategy, and as I ran lap after lap the tyres slowly began to lose grip. There were still 20 laps left, so if the grip on the rear was this bad now, I knew it was only going to get worse later. That’s when we decided we would have to go with a rear tyre change."
In Round 6 at Sports Land Sugo, the team changed only the more severely worn left-hand tyres and managed to gain a significant number of places with their subsequent pit strategy.
In this race as well, like Sugo, the team had the option to change just the left-hand tyres, but they decided instead to change the rear ones.
"In theory, yes, it would have been better to just change the left-hand side. But on our car, we were losing a lot of traction on the rear and spinning tyres as a result. In the main race, the wear on the back-right was much worse than the left-front tyre, and that was beginning to seriously affect lap times." Said Fraga.
As the other teams began to head to the pits for a driver change, Fraga raced on before finally coming in on lap 34 having raised the team to 2nd. Furutani took over the wheel and the team change out the rear tyres. After refuelling, Furutani headed onto the track, continuing the race in 15th place.
Poor weather sends the final leg into turmoil
Conditions would have soon changed, though, and sudden showers quickly created wet conditions on track.
With only a few laps left to go, the team decide to change to rain tyres. Furutani is called back to pits for a tyre change before heading back out.
"In the final leg of the race, the rain started to pick up and we were struggling with pace. The other teams were pushing on with dry tyres, but with our car and tyres it was beginning to get undrivable." Said Furutani.
"Considering the possibility that the rain could get even worse, we decided to change to rain tyres and take an aggressive stance. Things were feeling very good when I got back on rack. But then almost immediately it stopped raining and the track started to dry up. I don't regret the decision to change tyres though. I think it was the best choice we could make at the time." Concluded Furutani.
Furutani is unable to make up for the time lost in the tyre change and the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3 meets the final chequered flag of the season in 17th place.
"This weekend we really had nothing to lose even if we took a big risk, so we knew there wasn't any other choice but to take the gamble." Said Fraga about the race week.
"If it had just rained a little harder toward the end, we could have perhaps just squeezed into the points range. But in the end our strategy worked against us and we left with no points at all. It's disappointing, but I'm satisfied that we did everything thing we could as a team."
And so the 2023 Super GT Series ended. Igor Omura Fraga and Yuga Furutani both finish 23rd in the driver rankings with five points, while their team ANEST IWATA Racing finishes 17th in the team rankings.
SUPER GT 2023 GT300 ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage
Event / Qualifying Position / Final Position / Points
Opening Rd.・Okayama / 7th / 12th / --
Rd. 2・Fuji / 17th / 14th / --
Rd. 3・Suzuka / 15th / 17th / --
Rd. 4・Fuji / 8th / 19th / --
Rd. 5・Suzuka / 5th / 10th / 1
Rd. 6・SUGO / 20th / 7th / 4
Rd. 7・Autopolis / 15th / 11th / --
Final Rd.・Motegi / 15th / 17th / --
Total points: 5
Driver Rankings: 23rd (Igor Omura Fraga / Yuga Furutani)
Team Rankings : 17th (ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage)
Fraga meets a fan
The 2023 Super GT GT300 Class ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT and its three drivers. (Photo: Round 2, Fuji Speedway)
GT500 Class season champion No. 36 au TOM'S GR Supra, driven by Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata
Fraga's GT300 class rival. Season Champion No. 52 Saitama Toyopet GB GR Supra GT, driven by Hiroki Yoshida and Kohta Kawaai
Next up: 18-19 November, SFL Rd.16-18 at Mobility Resort Motegi
Fraga’s next race will be his final real-world race this year: at Motegi for the Final Round of the Super Formula Lights, he’ll be looking to score his first victory since Rd 6.
You can follow all of Igor's racing in the 2023 Super GT Championship (ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage) on the 'Igor Fraga Report' page.