SUPER GT 2023 Round 5 at Suzuka: Fraga Helps ANEST IWATA Score First-ever Championship Points
On August 26 and 27, Igor Omura Fraga (ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage) competed in Round 5 (450-km race) of the Super GT series at Suzuka Circuit in Mie, Japan.
The ANEST IWATA race drivers: Igor Omura Fraga, Yuga Furutani, and Miki Koyama
After a collision with another car in Round 4 at Fuji Speedway, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3 was repaired andl ooks brand new for its outing at Suzuka
ANEST IWATA Racing had a problem to deal with in Super GT Round 5. In the previous race, a passing maneuver occurred when the safety car came out, resulting in a penalty for ANEST IWATA. What this meant for Round 5 at Suzuka was that the team would be prohibited from entering the track for one hour during the latter half of the official practice session, severely restricting the ability to set up the car properly for the race.
The Lexus RC F GT3 is tuned and ready to take on Suzuka
On the Saturday morning, August 26, Fraga headed straight out onto the track as soon as the practice session started to check the condition of the ANEST IWATA Racing team’s RC F.
“On corner entry, the rear end was a little jittery, and I felt we could get a lot more performance out of the car if we could solve that, so I went back to the pits to change the setup. After that, the rear was a lot more stable which was good, but now it was understeering (where the car is unable to turn as sharply as the driver intends) a lot more on the corner exit. So, I thought for qualifying, it would be better to put the settings back to how they were before. Unfortunately, I was only able to drive the car for 12 laps, and I wasn’t able to check how the car would feel after the retune. I left that in the hands of Furutani.”
Fraga had been somewhat anxious, but in free practice, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F set the second-best time of all 25 cars in its class. As the official qualifying drew closer, it appeared as if the car was getting better and better.
A record result for the season, 5th place on the grid
ANEST IWATA Racing entered the afternoon’s Q1 qualifying session with Furutani setting the 5th best time out of 13 cars. For the top 16 Q2 qualifying session, Fraga took the wheel.
In this session, Fraga managed to set the 5th best time again. This put the team at P5 on the starting grid, the team’s best qualifying result ever.
"We had changed the settings back to how they were before, so the car was still quite jittery on corner entry, but I was very satisfied with my attack lap, and we got a good time out of it. If I had to make an improvement anywhere, I think if I managed to get through the final corner more cleanly, we may just have gotten pole position, but it’s a 450-km long race, so I think it's still a good position to start from,” Fraga commented confidently regarding the session.
Pit strategy challenges
Sunday was race day. Continuing from Saturday, the skies were clear, and the race commenced at 2:45 pm. The race was to be a 450-km endurance event with at least two pit stops as mandated by regulations.
Fraga was the starting driver. He began the race defensively, trying to keep his 5th place position. The team’s strategy was to pit after the minimum required laps, then refuel the minimum amount without a tire or driver change. Their goal was to avoid pitting at the same time as any other team. This would allow the drivers to stay away from traffic at the start of the race and run at their own pace on a relatively empty track.
After five laps (the minimum required by regulations), 5th-place Fraga made his pitstop as planned and refueled the minimum amount.
Conditions changed though, and Fraga lost more places than expected with this pitstop. One factor was the relatively high fuel consumption of the RC F, which extended the refueling time, and the team lost even more time when they had problems restarting the engine. Also, other teams behind had also chosen to pit at the same time, and when Fraga finally returned to the track, he found himself behind two other cars.
“On our first pit strategy some of the slower pace cars got ahead of us, and when I got back on track I was completely pinned down. I think my lap times were probably about one second faster, but on the straights, the cars in front were so fast they created a big gap that I couldn’t close, so it really took me a long time before I could overtake them. I think I probably lost about 20 seconds there,” Fraga explained.
With lost time in the pits and further time lost stuck behind slower cars, Igor lost two positions overall and fell even further through the predicted rankings as he ran laps waiting for the opportunity to make a big move.
First series points win
“I went on an all-out on offence and managed to gain a few places, but my tires started to wear out. So, in the seven or eight laps until the second pit stop, the tires were almost completely gone, which lost me about two seconds compared to my regular pace, and that was another big-time loss for us,” said Fraga.
After running 36 of the race’s 77 laps, he made his second pitstop where he refueled, changed tires and handed the wheel to Furutani.
After fulfilling their two mandatory pitstops, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F returned to the track in 9th place with Yuga Furutani driving. However, Furutani dropped to 10th position as he was pursued from behind by faster cars.
The team had to finish in 10th or higher to receive vital championship points. With those points on the line, Furutani pushed his car through the late stages of the race, and although he struggled with his ever-diminishing tires, he continued at an incredible pace and met the checkered flag with his position intact. For the team, this would be the moment they scored their first championship points (one point each for the driver and the team.)
Greeting teammate Furutani at the finish, Fraga had the following to say about the midsummer race.
“We had a lot of problems, but even if everything had gone according to plan, I’m not sure we would have made the top 5. But I think we’ve really shown that we have the potential to go much higher than our position today. That’s why although I’m happy about winning our first points, I’m a little disappointed. Round 6 at SUGO is a 300-km race. I think it’ll be a much simpler race, so it’s going to be a big opportunity for us.”
Next Up: September 9 and 10, SFL Rd.13-15 at Okayama International Circuit
Fraga’s next race will be his first SFL event in almost two months, Super Formula Lights Rounds 13-15 (September 9 and 10) where he will be going for his second victory this season.
Competing in the GTWS and travels to Europe
Turning the clock back a little, here’s what Fraga was doing just before his Super GT race at Suzuka. After competing in Super GT Rd. 4 (Fuji), Fraga flew to the Netherlands to compete in the Gran Turismo World Series (GTWS) Showdown 2023 held in Amsterdam. He competed as part of the three-man team representing Brazil in the Nations Cup.
In the Grand Final race, held on Saturday, August 12, the Brazilian team finished in 3rd place, putting Fraga on the podium.
“Previous Nations Cup races had all been individual competitions, but this year it became a team race. Being able to rely on my teammates, I wasn’t only focused on the race, but I was able to enjoy looking around the city as well, so overall it was a really fun event.”
Fraga competing for Brazil in the GTWS Showdown, held in Amsterdam on 11-12 August
The Brazilian team take 3rd on the podium in the Grand Final
After racing in the Showdown, Fraga visited Germany where he participated in a development test for FANATEC, the leading brand in sim-racing hardware and supporters of Fraga’s career acting as his personal sponsor.
After a whirlwind tour of Europe, Fraga returned to Japan and immediately headed to the Mobility Resort Motegi in Tochigi to attend a Super Formula Championship event in his role as an ambassador. After returning to Japan, Fraga drove himself to all the events. He looked back on the busy period, saying, “After stopping again and again at service stations just to take a break, I finally made it back home.”
With little time to rest, Fraga managed to win his first points for himself and his team in Super GT Rd. 5. Keep watching Igor Fraga’s career as he trots the globe striving to become the best in both real and virtual motorsports.
SUPER GT 2023 Round 5 at Suzuka: Highlights
For more information on Igor Omura Fraga’s real-world racing competition in 2023, please consult the ‘Igor Fraga Reports’ page.