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Super GT Soaked - December 2007 Shakedown

Arta NSX Seconds Shy Of Victory

Dec 1, 2007
Htup_0712_01_hp+super_gt_racing+autobacs_nsx_gt500 Photo 1/9   |   Super GT Soaked - December 2007 Shakedown

What Goes On In Soichiro's Name
Super GT is notorious for the varying weather conditions from track to track, for instance running through monsoon season in Indonesia before returning home to Japan in the heat of August. But the weather in the summertime is no more predictable than it is on the island the rest of the year. When the sixth race of the season started at 1 p.m. at Suzuka Raceway, the sun was shining and it was a sticky 91 degrees out. The track temperature had escalated to almost 124 degrees in the few hours the sun had to beat on the asphalt.

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Eight laps in, the Cerumo SC430 (No. 38) had managed to catch and pass the leader, but the hard charging meant a pit stop at lap 25. By lap 32, The No. 8 ARTA NSX (Ralph Firman/Daisuke Ito) running a stable but steady pace, was able to take the lead, with the Advan SC430 following close behind. The real threat came in the form of the Impul Z (No. 23) that, despite having had a collision on the race's inaugural lap, was back on track and lapping the course seconds faster than the leaders. By lap 36, the Z had passed the ARTA NSX and was the new race leader.

But Zs drink gas faster than NSXs do. By lap 51, it was time for the Z to get its fill of Japan's finest octane infused swill, and the ARTA NSX was once again in the lead. There, it fended off the ever quicker Tom's SC430 that had been working its way through the pack the entire race. It had already moved in behind the ARTA car by lap 52 and the pressure was on.

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The ARTA car did a valiant job of defense for a full 81 laps with the SC430 stuck to its tail. By lap 133, the skies opened up and rain poured by the bucketful. With most of the cars still on slicks, the soaked track soon turned into a dangerous place to be. Three laps later, the ARTA car went into the pits, along with the SC430.

On lap 142, the infamous Takata Dome NSX demonstrated how slick the conditions were with a spectacular spin and crash, despite being on rain tires. As is characteristic of the weather in Japan this time of year, it was a mere eight laps later that the rain ceased. The Tom's car immediately gambled and fitted slicks. A lap afterward, the ARTA team made the same decision. This decision would decide the NSX's fate as being unable to pass the Tom's SC430.

When the NSX made it back on course, it promptly became stuck in slower GT300 traffic, which allowed the SC430 to open up a lead of a full 10 seconds. It was over for the ARTA team. Despite having finished in second place, it's worth noting that the NSX carried the maximum load of handicap weight-second place was an amazing feat and enough to keep the ARTA car at the top of the points for the season thus far.

Htup_0712_04_z+super_gt_racing+honda_formula_1_car Photo 4/9   |   Super GT Soaked - December 2007 Shakedown

Last and Lastest
2007 Turkish GP-Disappointment And Encouragement Rolled Into One RaceLet's be honest-Honda hasn't had the best year in F1. While this August in Turkey was no exception, it was a relative improvement to the lackluster performance we've seen thus far. For Jensen Button, anyway.

Both Button and Ruebens Barrichello had a tough time during qualifying and later ended up having to change the engines in both cars, landing the duo starting positions in last and lastest, respectively. On top of that, Button's start was compromised when he ran wide to avoid the pirouetting car of Jarno Trulli. But things changed midway through the race when Button started to get into the groove. It was like a scene from Days of Thunder; Button roaring through no fewer than 10 cars during the course of the 58-lap race. The performance landed him in 13th place-nothing to write a letter to mom about, but given the circumstances pretty kick-ass nonetheless.

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As the man put it himself, "It was a lot of fun passing 10 cars! If you put to one side where we finished-because 13th position is still far from a good result-I think we had a reasonable race compared to the last one. I had a good time and was able to pass quite a few of the midfield competitors who we've been struggling to keep pace with in recent races. Obviously, starting from the back of the grid is not something I want to have to repeat but we did a good job to fight for something better and I think the team can be pleased with our performance today."

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Barrichello was completely surprised to find that Button was a full two seconds per lap faster. His response to hearing the news over the intercom was, "Don't make me laugh!" Although when Button caught up, Barrichello was happy to move over and let the young playboy by. His comments on the race: "Obviously, today was always going to be difficult starting from the back of the field. The car was moving around quite a bit from corner to corner and there wasn't much I could do from where we started."

Indeed the Honda team scored zero points by race end and was a full lap behind the 1-2 Ferrari finishers, Massa and Rikknen. Despite the finish, it's clear Honda is building momentum in the season. Here's to kicking ass in Italy guys.

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Indy Hits Infineon
The Battle For The Driver's Championship Rages OnIt was no big surprise that Dario Franchitti qualified on the pole position during the Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon Raceway. He went on to rocket off and lead the largely uneventful race until just 11 laps remained. Just as most of the crowd was beginning to fall asleep, Franchitti made contact with teammate Marco Andretti while Andretti was exiting the pits from one of many routine stops.

The bender happened in turn two-a blind uphill right that leads the cars into a series of undulating interconnected corners. Andretti was forced to park it right then, but Franchitti, having only suffered minor damage to the left front wing, elected to continue for the rest of the race. The missing downforce was enough to cause sketchy handling and the result was a pass by his rival, Scott Dixon (don't worry, he's in a Honda too).

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It didn't take Dixon long to reel in the damaged Franchitti on turn three and Helio Castroneves was able to sneak by less than a minute after that. (Oh, he's in a Honda too). Castroneves tried on a number of occasions to squeak by Dixon but was unsuccessful, giving Dixon a thin four-point lead in the 2007 IndyCar Series. We imagine that some of you just care about Danica Patrick. Fair enough-she finished sixth (she was in a Honda). With just two races left, you can bet the action is going to start heating up.

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Dixon was encouraged by his win at Infineon saying, "This was exactly what we needed today, another win and taking over the points lead. The crew was fantastic all day, the car was great and we had really quick stops. But it was a tough day, a tough weekend. It was very, very intense out there with a lot of different tactics going on among the various teams. TK (Tony Kanaan) was a real pain to us. He was doing what he could to protect Dario (Franchitti) and it was very frustrating. I just wanted to race Dario one-on-one, I didn't want to have to deal with TK. But I suppose if we were in the same position we would have done the same thing. Now, we go on to Detroit and Chicago with the points lead. We're exactly where we want to be."

Doing the math, we find that Dixon, Franchitti and Tony Kanaan are the only three people (all in Hondas) who can potentially win the series driver's championship after this race in Sonoma. Of course by the time you read this, it will be over. So let us know how Belle Isle Park in Detroit went on Sept. 2, and Chicagoland in Joliet, Ill.

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