SUPER GT 2023 Round 7 at Autopolis: Shutout for Three Consecutive Races
On October 14 and 15, Igor Omura Fraga competed in Round 7 (450 km race) of the Super GT series at the Autopolis International Racing Course in Oita with his teammate Yuga Furutani, racing for ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage. Fraga was coming off his best finish this season in Round 6 of the Super GT series, placing 7th.
Because there was a long interval between Rounds 6 and 7—an entire month—Fraga decided to spend it away from the race track and refresh his energy by training and partaking in one of his favorite recreational hobbies.
Staying in shape and keeping sharp
Physical activities and playing Gran Turismo
“I train normally but if there are days where I’m not feeling up to it, I go bouldering (rock climbing). I started bouldering after being taught by a Polyphony Digital staff member last year in Japan, and it’s fun! I let out my stress bouldering and then go back to my standard training routine. Also, the Honda Racing eMS 2023 Time Attack Challenge 2023 is being held on Gran Turismo 7 (an in-game event that ran until October 29), so I was doing time attacks on the Nürburgring. Before going to Autopolis, I was in 2nd place in the Global Rankings. Nürburgring is a track that I love. I drive two to three hours a day, about 500 km, of course not continuously though. I take a break after driving an hour and a half, then do something else, and then drive another hour and a half in the late afternoon, something like that.”
Getting familiar with a race track on a simulator
For serious training, Fraga took to the a simulator owned by TCD (Toyota Customizing and Development) for the third time this season in preparation for this next race.
In the Super GT, the opportunity to pre-run a race track is limited; therefore practicing on high-performance simulators is important for both the driver and the team.
“On a simulator, it doesn’t take time to change settings. Compared to testing on a real car, you can try a lot of things in a limited amount of time. Also, in a real car, the tire condition continues to change due to wear and other factors, but on a simulator you can make those conditions constant. That makes it possible to understand the differences made by the settings, and it has the advantage of making it easier to analyze what was improved. This time, I drove at Autopolis where Round 7 is being held, and I have a feeling we were able to find a hint to alleviating the lack of feel of the front grip we had been plagued with until now.”
Autopolis International Racing Course and tire strategy
Autopolis International Racing Course is positioned to the northwest of Mount Aso, a well-known active volcano in the Kyushu prefecture. It's a technical track with many elevation changes, making it especially hard on tires.
In Super GT, a regulation limits the number of tires you can use for a 450-km race to a maximum of six sets (24 tires). Thus, the teams must predict the weekend conditions of the race, and then decide which tires to use.
This time, the ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage team brought three sets of soft tires and three sets of hard tires. However, on race weekend, the skies above Autopolis became cloudy, putting a wrench in the team's tire choices.
Surface temperatures and tire choice results in challenges
Fraga said he expected a hard time on the track as soon as the official practice session began on Saturday, October 14.
“Both the soft and hard tires didn’t match the range of surface temperatures we were seeing, and they did not function well in the practice drives. I felt we would be at best around 15th place even if things went well,” he said.
Super GT regulations require drivers to start the final race with the tires used in qualifying, which means if you used soft tires to focus on a fast lap time, it could seriously be at a disadvantage in race day. Knowing this, the team selected hard tires for the Q1 qualifying session in the afternoon, handing Fraga the wheel.
“Just before qualifying, the sun came out a little bit and the surface temperatures went up. This was very good for the tires we had, but I was still nervous whether we would be able to set a good time. But once running, the tires warmed up fairly well, and the time attack came together well.”
Fraga was 5th fastest in qualifying out of 25 cars in the GT300 class in Q1. However the temperatures dropped again, and Furutani. who drove the Q2 qualifier. could not improve his lap times, putting the team 15th on the starting grid.
Struggling to warm up the tires, gradually improving position
For the final race, the team prayed that ambient and surface temperatures would rise, but the skies remained cloudy on the day of the final, with surface temperatures on the track staying low. Furutani, who started the race on hard tires, struggled to get them to optimal performing temperatures. He gave up several positions after the start of the race, but he fought hard and gradually worked his way into contention. After his 28-lap stint, he handed the driving duties Fraga.
Fraga performs well, but not enough to secure series points
Fraga, who drove the latter half of the race, registered lap times equal to the top GT300 cars, but ultimately ran out of time, finishing in 11th place. Unfortunately, they missed the position needed to acquire series points for three races in a row.
“It was unfortunate that at Autopolis, the temperatures dropped much more than we expected, and the tire strategy was all off. But I was clearly faster than some of the cars driving in front, and I was able to drive better than I expected, but it was not enough to get up to the top positions. That’s racing, and it's unfortunate. We only have the last race left, so I’ll try to finish the season in good form.”
Next Up: November 3 and 4, Super GT Rd.8 at Motegi
The next Super GT race for Fraga is the 8th and final round of the season taking place on November 3 and 4. The venue is Mobility Resort Motegi in the Tochigi prefecture. It will be the finale for Fraga's Super GT 2023 season, so make sure to tune in to the last battle of the year!
SUPER GT 2023 Round 7 at Autopolis: Highlights
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.