Michelin and Nissan secure fourth GT500 title in five years

The N°1 NISMO-run Motul Nissan GT-R were forced to start the Motegi GT 250Km Race, final round of Japan’s 2015 Super GT Championship, from 12th on the grid after an extremely wet qualifying session. Even so, drivers Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda were determined to finish at least fifth and, above all, ahead of the N°12 car (Yasuda/De Oliviera) which began the weekend with a three-point advantage over the Nissan squad in the Teams’ standings and two points clear in the Drivers’ classification.

Prior to the start, the staff at NISMO and its partner Michelin Motorsport were tense and extremely focused on their mission since success in Super GT is as much a question of prestige as it is an indication of technical supremacy. It is this that drives the Japanese makes and the four world class tyre brands which are active in the championship to dedicate such significant technological resources to the series.

Despite facing competition from three local tyre makers, Michelin has risen to the challenge in style in recent years to claim three of the past four titles, including the 2014 crown with NISMO and Quintarelli/Matsuda.

The track was wet and the weather overcast for the start of this year’s Motegi GT 250Km Race but brighter sky was visible on the horizon and the local forecasters predicted sunshine before the chequered flag. As a result, the crews faced a mixed bag of conditions, making tyre versatility a potentially crucial factor which boosted Michelin’s hopes of a strong result.

Ronnie Quintarelli was nominated to line up on the grid in the N°1 GT-R and a good getaway saw him gain a place immediately. His speed then saw him carve his way up the order to figure in sixth spot – just 13 seconds behind the N°12 car – by the end of Lap 13.

His Michelin tyres were clearly at ease on the drying track and the Italian put in a sequence of quick laps to close the gap to his team’s championship rival to nine seconds.

As the GT500 runners started to pit, Quintarelli stayed out two additional laps, posting further fast times before stopping to hand over to Japan’s Tsugio Matsuda who re-joined with the N°1 GT-R on slicks… and in second place.

Meanwhile, the Yasuda/De Oliviera machine appeared to be having trouble getting its rubber up to temperature and was losing ground back in fourth.