Real Racing Honda has "found something" at Suzuka
Honda SUPER GT racer Bertrand Baguette says his Real Racing squad has "found something" after qualifying an encouraging sixth for this weekend's fourth round of the season at Suzuka.
The #17 Real NSX-GT shared by Baguette and Koudai Tsukakoshi was the only car running with a fuel restrictor to make it out of the opening segment of qualifying, as the other championship frontrunners all fell in Q1.
While Dunlop Honda teams Nakajima Racing and Mugen locked out the front row in Q2, Baguette was only a tenth of a second slower than the ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri, which is also on Bridgestone rubber but running a 26kg handicap compared to the Real car's 52kg.
"To be the second-fastest Bridgestone car with the weight we have on the car and the fuel flow restrictor, we can only be happy about that, especially because all the guys fighting with us for the championship are behind," Baguette told Motorsport.com.
"I’m also happy with my Q2 lap because I had to go with different tyres to my teammate. We had some issue on the tyre management in free practice, but still the laptime was there.
"The biggest part of the job is tomorrow, but in every race we have been playing catch-up and starting at the back, even with a good race pace, so it was nice to qualify well for once.
"It looks like we have found something. Koudai also did a great lap in practice [to go fifth-fastest] and we were the best Bridgestone car. We were quite surprised about that.
"The set-up is completely different to what we used in the first three races, a different concept unique to Suzuka, but it seems to be working well here."
Prospects uncertain if it rains
While Baguette is targeting a solid haul of points for Sunday's race, the possibility of rain at Suzuka continues to loom, despite Saturday's qualifying session taking place entirely in dry conditions.
The last wet SUPER GT race came almost two years ago at Sugo, which was won by the Michelin-shod NDDP/B-Max Nissan (pictured below) ahead of Nakajima Racing's Dunlop-shod Honda.
"The last time I drove this car in the wet was Sugo in 2019!" admitted Baguette. "Since the switch to the front-engined [Honda, last year], I didn’t do even a single lap in the wet.
"They had the tyre test this year and apparently the Bridgestone was fast, so looks like we should have some pace. But Michelin and Dunlop will be quite strong. It’s difficult to predict the exact ranking. It depends on the amount of water on track and the temperature.
"For the Dunlop heavy rain is good as it cools down their tyre and keep the grip longer, if it’s just a bit damp they lose grip. Michelin is good in all conditions, especially in low water.
"Bridgestone is more ok in all conditions but not the best. I think Bridgestone has the widest window. The good news is if the Bridgestone is struggling, at least you have eight other cars in the same situation!"
For his part, poleman Takuya Izawa said he is confident the Dunlop tyre will perform well if it rains on Sunday.
"Looking at the situation of the other manufacturers in tyre tests and so on, I'm confident," said the Nakajima Racing driver.
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