SUPER GT 2023 Round 3 at Suzuka: Final Race Turns Out to Be a Test of Patience After Igor Omura Fraga Dominates Q1
Igor Fraga is the first world champion of the Gran Turismo World Series, and is also a driver who continues to challenge real motorsports in the European F3 and other races around the world. This season he has moved his stage to Japan in the SUPER GT300 class and the Super Formula Lights. This is a report of Fraga in the third round of the SUPER GT at Suzuka.
On 3 and 4 June, Igor Omura Fraga competed in Round 3 of the SUPER GT series, hosted at the Suzuka Circuit of the Mie Prefecture. Also having competed in the Japanese Super Formula Lights (SFL) championship on 20-21 May, it has been four weeks since his last SUPER GT race. Fraga is the A driver in the ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage, and his partners are B Driver Yuga Furutani and C driver Miki Koyama.
The Lexus RC F GT3 of ANEST IWATA Racing is a car that is well suited for the Suzuka Circuit where aerodynamic downforce is required, and the team was dead set on placing 10th place or better in order to secure some series points.
In the free practice on Saturday afternoon, Fraga was the first one to go on track behind the wheel. However in extended braking conditions the load of the car was shifting to the front and making the car nose dive unnecessarily. Fraga felt that the car’s balance was coming apart when turning in, and the car was repeatedly brought into the pit for adjustment.
Fraga felt that "As if we would have a hard time in the official Q1 qualifying, and might not even make it to Q2." So Fraga, Furutani and the engineers all pitched in ideas to try to improve the conditions, until the Q1 qualifying of the afternoon was upon them. In Q1, the Q1A group with 14 cars and the Q1B group with the remaining 13 cars were both given a 10 minute attack time. The top eight cars of each group would continue to the official Q2 qualifying and fill the 16 positions on the starting grid. Fraga was responsible for Q1, and drove in Group B.
Igor Fraga about to go out for the free practice. The Lexus RC F GT3 of ANEST IWATA Racing is aerodynamically well suited for the Suzuka Circuit
A scene from the fan communication event. Pictured from the left are Koyama, Furutani, and Fraga
Fraga and Furutani discussing the settings for the car in the pit
Fraga on board the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3
In Group B of the official Q1 qualifying, Fraga sets the top time
Up until the official qualifying, the team worked on revising the settings and simultaneously discovered a problem in the drive train which they fixed.
Fraga joined the Q1B group of the official qualifying with the new setup, and warmed his tires across three laps. He entered his time attack lap on the 4th.
After the all-out time attack Fraga passed the control line, and looked up at the clock tower by the track. Seeing car number 50 at the top of the tower, he was confused for a moment thinking "Car 50 is in 1st… Wait, what was the number of my car again?"
At this moment the top time of the Q1B group qualifying was none other than Fraga himself. He marked a time of 1 minute, 57.505 seconds out of 13 cars in Q1B. For the first time in over two races, the team had managed to break through Q1.
Much like Fraga, Furutani went out for the Q2 session and felt that the condition of the car had improved. However his time did not improve, and he ended the Q2 session in 15th place out of 16. This made their final starting grid position 15th place.
Looking back on the qualifying results, Fraga said that "The top time in Q1 felt really good. I think it’s been about three years since I’ve felt this way becoming 1st. We couldn’t figure out why the time did not improve in Q2 and there are still some issues we need to solve, but the top time in the Q1 qualifying makes everyone reaffirms that we have a team that can produce these results, and that raises the motivation for the entire group."
The final race started at 1:30pm on Sunday, 4 June. This race was again a 450 km challenge as with the race on Fuji in the last round, and two pit stops were required.
With a car that is well suited to the track, and drivers Fraga and Furutani who had a good grasp of the car, the team starting in 15th place of the GT300 Class aimed to go up the ranks quickly. The start of the race was left to Fraga, and he went out onto the track with their ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3.
Fraga off to a great start raised his position past rival machines that went into the pits early, going up to 13th in the 3rd lap, and 12th by the 5th lap.
When the safety car entered the track on lap 8, there were teams that started pit work immediately, but Fraga remained on track and their apparent position in lap 13 had improved to 8th place.
Fraga then continued to clear laps while overtaking rival machines with worn tires, and rose to 6th in lap 15 and 4th in lap 19. The team opted for a pit stop here, and chose to perform a tire change and refuel with no driver change. However this pit work took some time, and by the time Fraga returned to the track their position had dropped to 23rd place.
Fraga again chased hard at a high pace from here. By lap 33 he had rose to 17th, and by lap 37 up to 15. By lap 38 he rose again to 12th, and finally by lap 44 he rose to 2nd.
The team then called Fraga to the pit on lap 46. They were going to clear the 2nd pit stop requirement here, change tires and refuel, and hand over the wheel to Furutani to finish the rest of the race. However again this 2nd pit stop took more time than expected, and the team dropped to 20th place by the time Furutani was back on the track.
The chase began again for the team, however on lap 55, a major accident happened on the track, and the safety car entered the track. The accident ended up red flagging the race altogether, with no restart and the race was ended. This happened when the race was at its 75% completion mark.
The team’s chase to the upper ranks ended here, and the final result was 17th. While they were able to confirm that they have the speed to be on top, this final race became a test of their patience.
While they were not able to acquire series points again, Fraga said of the 3rd round at Suzuka: "In this race, the feel of the car had greatly improved and was very enjoyable to drive. In the final race the tires were not giving out as fast as the other cars on track, and I was able to make a move where their pace would drop. I think I was able to overtake quite a few cars because of that."
The SUPER GT Round 4 hosted in August will again be a battle on the Fuji Speedway. Meanwhile, the next race for Fraga will be the 2nd round of the Super Formula Lights (SFL) on 17-18 June at Sportsland SUGO.
"There are a lot of plans in place for me, with of course training for the next race (SFL) as well as lecturing at the Bridgestone eMotorsports Institute. There’s also some revisions I’d like to make to the settings of our Formula Lights machine, so I’ll be preparing for that with online meetings with the engineers as well."