Final 12 months was a banner season for Nissan in SUPER GT. On prime of the actual fact it gained the GT500 crown that had eluded it since 2015 with the model new Z, it locked out the highest two within the drivers’ standings, and it gained the GT300 title as well.
In truth, just about each workforce within the Nissan GT500 steady had one thing to rejoice final 12 months. However for the #23 NISMO crew of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda, the drivers that delivered Nissan’s earlier GT500 successes in 2014-15, it was a season to overlook.
The outdated veterans have been outclassed by the sister #3 automotive of Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi as NISMO expanded to 2 vehicles, and did not win a race all season. Whereas Quintarelli scored a pole at Suzuka, by way of race outcomes second at Sugo was nearly as good because it bought for the pair. And that was a race that he and Matsuda ought to have gained if not for an unlucky technique error that successfully handed victory to Chiyo and Takaboshi.
Nissan’s lead contender, the automotive whose standing is sure up within the reality its quantity reads ‘Ni-san’, was nicely and actually humbled. However now the eye has turned to how Quintarelli and Matsuda can get again to successful methods of their tenth season collectively as team-mates.
“We’ve been attempting to get automotive #23 again to the place it was two or three years in the past, again to being a stable workforce,” Quintarelli says. “Through the low season, NISMO has been engaged on the #23 aspect of the storage and I can really feel the environment [of old] coming again once more.
“Throughout these checks I felt the environment coming again and we had fairly stable checks. I may see the motivation contained in the workforce is superb. We nonetheless have to enhance the small particulars, however the motivation is there and that is an important level I felt from testing.”
Wanting again at what went mistaken final 12 months, Quintarelli highlights NISMO’s enlargement to a second automotive and the tragic lack of workforce director Yutaka Suzuki just some months earlier than the 2022 season was resulting from start, as contributing components to the #23 crew’s struggles.
“Dropping [Suzuki] was a giant blow,” Quintarelli says. “And going from working one automotive to 2 vehicles is a giant distinction. What works nicely on one automotive might not work on the opposite. Particularly in the beginning of the season, there was lots of stress with the brand new automotive and issues didn’t go so easily as they did up to now.”
There may be additionally the query of whether or not the newly-formed #3 workforce was maybe extra energised than their counterparts within the #23 aspect of the storage who’ve been working collectively a very long time.
“I actually admire the hassle that NISMO has made to attempt to change some ‘items’ to enhance issues contained in the workforce, particularly on the motivation aspect,” says the Italian. “When you’ve two drivers who’ve been collectively for 10 years, plus the chief engineer [Takeshi Nakajima], typically you possibly can develop into flat. You want some spark within the workforce.
“It appears now we aren’t the ‘ace’ automotive inside NISMO, simply we now have the ‘ace’ quantity however primarily based on the outcomes of final 12 months, it’s not the case that we’re the aces. Even this level is motivating.
“For them [the #3] it was a brand new problem, they have been naturally very motivated. That they had nothing to lose: in the event that they have been behind us, it was regular.”
Quintarelli additionally concedes that the #23 aspect of the storage pursued a blind alley on set-up, influenced by their huge information of the best way to get probably the most from the outdated GT-R – permitting the more energizing #3 crew to get the bounce on them.
“Once we switched to the Z we began off with a set-up much like that of the GT-R,” he explains. “Automobile #3 began from scratch with a brand new set-up idea and we have been working in fully other ways.
“Within the pre-season checks, when the situations are cool and you’ve got good downforce, it appeared fairly good. However I might say from round Spherical 3 [at Suzuka], once we had a hotter weekend, we realised we weren’t aggressive sufficient. We began struggling lots, and automotive #3 was clearly sooner than us. This was the story of the season.”
To this point, NISMO has carried out 4 low season checks, becoming a member of in group checks at Suzuka and Fuji earlier than testing simply its personal two vehicles in Michelin-organised checks at Motegi and Okayama.
The 2 pink Nissans have been the one GT500 vehicles lacking from final week’s two days of producer testing at Suzuka, the place the ARTA Honda of Toshiki Oyu laid down an ominous marker with a brand new unofficial document some 1.5s up on the present benchmark.
Quintarelli jokes that “we weren’t doing occasions that quick in System Nippon [now Super Formula] 15 years in the past!” However he provides that with the aerodynamics freeze this season, he isn’t worrying unduly about whether or not Honda has bought the bounce on Nissan over the winter.
“I don’t know precisely the best way to choose it, as a result of the largest factor this 12 months is the carbon-neutral gas, which has an influence on the engine energy,” he factors out. “From the GTA check at Okayama, each automotive has to make use of the brand new gas, however up till now there have been vehicles working on common gas and this is a bonus.
“Utilizing CNF, you lose energy. From the primary time we used it, it was not so unhealthy, however you might really feel the lack of energy. We’ve to optimise how the engine is working with the brand new CNF.
“Honda appears to be very fast, however I don’t suppose they improved by 1.5 seconds! We gained’t know for positive till the official check at Okayama, the place everybody could have the brand new gas and everybody shall be working below the identical situations. So let’s see there.”