Too early to say Nissan Z has the edge, says Baguette
Impul's Bertrand Baguette believes it's too soon to call the Nissan Z the favourite for this year's SUPER GT title battle ahead of this weekend's fourth round of the season at Fuji Speedway.
Nissan's #3 NDDP Racing crew heads the drivers' standings after three rounds of the season so far following Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi's victory in the most recent race in late May.
The first win for the new-for-2022 Z GT500, which followed Takaboshi's enormous crash in the preceding Fuji race, was achieved in dominant style, prompting Toyota's Sacha Fenestraz to liken the Z's performance to that of the GR Supra when it was introduced two years ago.
However, Baguette, who shares the #12 Impul Nissan with Kazuki Hiramine, thinks that Toyota is in a strong position to defend the title it won last year, and has also backed his former employer Honda to star in the title battle.
"Nissan, especially the #3 car, for sure has been strong, but Toyota looks strong like they have been every season," Baguette told Motorsport.com. "They won at Okayama, they would have had a 1-2 at Fuji without the penalties and at Suzuka they were fast as well.
"Maybe Honda has underperformed so far but I think they will come back stronger, especially now with the temperatures going up. Last year especially at Real Racing that was a strong point for us.
"Everybody is there and you can’t say one brand is above the others. It will be a tough fight until the end of the season, but Nissan looks very competitive, which is a very positive point."
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Baguette and Hiramine retired early from May's Suzuka race with an early mechanical issue that forced Baguette to park up the Calsonic-liveried Z by the side of the track on the second lap.
"For some reason we struggled with the set-up, the conditions were quite different from the last test we did there, it was much warmer," the Belgian driver explained. "We couldn’t match the #3 car but I think we had a chance to be fourth, at least top five in the race.
"From the formation lap I could feel there was an issue, on the first lap it was getting worse and then the car just stopped. It was the throttle sensor, maybe a 1000 yen or 2000 yen-piece. The engine itself is ok."
On he and Hiramine's prospects for this weekend's Fuji 450km race, Baguette added: "The pace is there, we just need to do a bit better with the set-up and do a better job in qualifying and I think we can win a race.
"When everyone was light [in Okayama] we could be at the front, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again. We lacked some pace at Fuji, that was the one track we struggled a bit so far, but we have been working hard on the simulator in the break and hopefully we’ve found a solution."
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