Thursday, November 17, 2016

Super GT Finals - Twin Ring Motegi Walkaround

Last Saturday I decided to celebrate my birthday with a weekend trip to Motegi for the Super GT finals; located in Tochigi prefecture, the circuit is a little over 2 hours drive from Tokyo. I have to say that we couldn't get any luckier for a first time visit: the weather was absolutely spectacular as we were greeted by a super clear sky, fresh mountain breeze and blazing sun, so much so that I spent most of the day in a t-shirt despite being late autumn.
Twin Ring Motegi
As some of you may know, unfortunately a strong earthquake hit Kumamoto Prefecture this past April and GT Association (the Super GT governing body) decided to cancel the third round of the series that was supposed to take place at Autopolis in spring. To make up for the missed round, a decision was made to change the format of the last weekend of racing by scheduling shorter 53-laps races plus morning qualifying sessions on both Saturday and Sunday for a total of two races.

Given the twisty and hilly nature of the circuit layout, access to the paddock and the main stand area as well as getting around the track is not very easy. However it does make for a bit of hill-climbing and access to some really interesting views. I've always found it fascinating how the outer oval ring of the circuit is used as a parking space during some races.
Ever parked on a racetrack?
Since I take all my photos with my iPhone I didn't even bother trying to capture action shots from the race and rather focused on capturing the feeling of the day and the mood of the event.
Perfect weather

As the track is owned by Honda it was no surprise seeing this beautiful group of NSX, including a super rare Type R, taking a special spot on the elevated part of the oval: I really want one of those!

Such a timeless design
And while we are on the "Honda theme" a brand new NSX was also on display: it's an exquisite car to see in the flesh, but I really can't see myself falling in love with it (and its astronomical 27M yen price tag).
New is not always better
I must admit that, while Fuji Speedway takes a special place in my heart, Twin Ring Motegi is miles better in terms of hospitality, facilities, restaurants and entertainment areas. Food was actually quite good and several stand served dishes typical of the area. We also stopped at Gran Turismo Café,  a little restaurant themed after the famous PlayStation game, where you could eat and try the latest version of GT.
Getting around
GT cafe
Can't wait for Gran Turismo Sport
After lunch we visited the Honda Collection Hall: I won't disclose much as I am planning a dedicated post on this, but we were in for a real treat and saw some truly amazing machines on display. I completely lost sense of time while visiting and eventually missed the start of the race!
Honda Collection Hall
We enjoyed watching the race from a perfect spot on the highest part of the circuit, right behind the final chicane leading into the main straight. We could also see the cars coming back from the back-straight and battling into the second corner as well as pit action. By instinct I usually tend to get as close as possible to the track to appreciate the sheer speed and sound of the cars, but this usually ends up in endless head-turning trying to follow their passage.  Being a bit far and not on the main straight really improved the entertainment factor and this time we truly enjoyed braking battles and overtakes.
Race action
After the race we took a stroll through the paddock area, where hundreds of fans were on the hunt for photos and autograph while teams where tiding things up.

I stopped to take a look at some of the machines that retired from the races due to accidents or failures, like this striking Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Huracan GT3
And the ARTA BMW M6 which had been involved in a massive crash early I the race; the impact was so severe that it was damaged beyond repair and couldn't take part in the Sunday race.
Completely wrecked
The winner Forum Engineering Nissan GT-R and the runner-up Denso Sard RC F were also tucked away from the crowd, awaiting for post race technical inspections.
The winners
Teams leave nothing to chances when it comes to tires, obviously available in slick and rain...
Tires on tires on tires
...and spare parts, as you can notice by the still wrapped front bumper and fender set behind Team IMPUL pits.
Hopefully they won't need this
We also enjoyed a 15-lap F4 sprint race: I can only imagine the feeling of racing at sunset in such an iconic circuit.
On our way to the parking area I couldn't resist and spot a BNR34 bathing in the sunset.

As well as a BCNR33 awaiting its owner.
Leaving the circuit revealed to be a bit of a nightmare as we go stuck in traffic, but the sunset made it totally worth it as well as the sushi dinner that we enjoyed once back in Tokyo.
Leaving this place wasn't easy. At all
Birthday sushi
Perfect day and perfect birthday present: will definitely come back next year.
Last shot of the day
Until next time.

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