SUPER GT 2023 Round 5 at Suzuka: Fraga Feels Hopeful for the Future After Scoring Points Finishing 10th
On 26 and 27 August, Igor Omura Fraga (ANEST IWATA Racing with Arnage) competed in Round 5 (450 km race) of the Super GT series, hosted at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie.
The ANEST IWATA Racing drivers: Igor Omura Fraga, Yuga Furutani, and Miki Koyama
After a collision with another car in Round 4 at Fuji Speedway, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3 has been repaired and is looking brand new for its outing at Suzuka
ANEST IWATA Racing had a new problem to deal with in Super GT Round 5. In the previous race, an overtake had just coincided with the introduction of the safety car, resulting in them being given a yellow flag overtake penalty. What this meant for Round 5 at Suzuka is that ANEST IWATA Racing would be prohibited from entering the track for one hour during the latter half of the official practice session, severely limiting the team’s time in which to dial in their setup.
The RC F GT3 is tuned and ready to take on Suzuka
On the morning of 26 August, Fraga headed straight out onto the track as soon as the practice session started to check the condition of the ANEST IWATA Racing team’s RC F.
'On corner entry, the rear end was a little jittery and I felt we could get a lot more performance out of the car if we could solve that, so I went back to the pits to change the setup. After that, the rear was a lot more stable which was good, but now it was understeering [a phenomenon where the car is unable to turn as sharply as the driver intended] a lot more on the corner exit. So, I thought for qualifying it would be better to put the settings back to how they were before. Unfortunately, I was only able to drive the car for 12 laps, and I wasn’t able to check how the car would feel after the retune. I left that in the hands of Furutani.'
Fraga had been somewhat anxious, but in free practice, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F set the 2nd best time of all 25 cars in its class. As the official qualifying drew closer, it appeared as if the car was getting better and better.
A record result for the season, 5th place on the grid
ANEST IWATA Racing entered the afternoon’s Q1 qualifying session, with Furutani setting the 5th best time out of 13 cars. For the top 16 Q2 qualifying session, Fraga took the wheel.
In this session, Fraga managed to set the 5th best time again. This put them in 5th place on the starting grid, the team’s best qualifying result since their inception.
'We had changed the settings back to how they were before, so the car was still quite jittery on corner entry, but I was very satisfied with my attack lap, and we got a good time out of it. If I had to make an improvement anywhere, I think if I managed to get through the final corner more cleanly, we may just have gotten pole position, but it’s a 450 km long race, so I think it's still a good position to start from.' Fraga commented confidently regarding the session.
Pit strategy challenges
Sunday was race day. Continuing from Saturday, the skies were clear, and the race begins at 2:45pm.
Fraga served as the starting driver. He started the race defensively, trying to keep his 5th place position. The race was a 450 km endurance round with at least two pit stops as mandated by regulations.
The team’s strategy was to pit in after the minimum required laps, then refuelling the minimum amount without changing tyres or driver before returning to the track. Their goal was chiefly to avoid pitting in at the same time as any other team. With this, they should have been able to get away from the pack at the start of the race and run at their own pace on a relatively empty track.
After five laps (the minimum required by regulations), 5th place Fraga pitted in according to plan, and refueled the minimum amount.
Conditions changed though, and Fraga lost more places than expected with this pit stop. One factor was the relatively high fuel consumption of the RC F extended the refuel time, and the team lost even more time when they had problems restarting the engine. Furthermore, other teams behind had also chosen to pit in at the same time, and when Fraga finally returned to the track, he found himself behind two other cars.
'On our first pit strategy some of the slower pace cars got ahead of us, and when I got back on track I was completely pinned down. I think my lap times were probably about one second faster, but on the straights the cars in front were so fast they created a big gap which I couldn’t close so it really took me a long time before I could overtake them. I think I probably lost about 20 seconds there.' Fraga spoke of the situation.
With lost time in the pits and further time lost with his path ahead blocked, Igor lost two positions overall and he fell even further through the predicted rankings as he ran laps waiting for the opportunity to overtake.
First series points win
'I went on an all-out offence and managed to gain a few places, but my tires started to wear out. So, in the seven or eight laps until the second pit stop, the tyres were almost completely gone which lost me about two seconds compared to my regular pace and that was another big time loss for us.' Said Fraga. After running 36 of the race’s 77 laps, he made his second pit stop where he refueled, changed tyres and handed the wheel over to Furutani.
After fulfilling their two mandatory pit stops, the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F returned to the track in 9th place with Yuga Furutani driving. However, Furutani dropped down to 10th position as he was pursued from behind by faster rivals.
The team had to finish in 10th or higher to receive the vital championship points they needed. With those points on the line, Furutani pushed on through the late stages of the race, and though he struggled with his ever diminishing tyres he continued at an incredible pace and met the chequered flag with his position intact. For the team, this would be the moment they scored their first championship points (one point each for the driver and the team.)
Greeting teammate Furutani at the finish, Fraga had the following to say about the midsummer race.
'We had a lot of problems, but even if everything had gone according to plan, I’m not sure we would have made the top 5. But I think we’ve really shown that we have the potential to go much higher than our position today. That’s why although I’m happy about winning our first points, I’m a little disappointed. Round 6 at SUGO is a 300km race. I think it’ll be a much simpler race, so it’s going to be a big opportunity for us.'
Next Up: 9-10 September, SFL Rd.13-15 at Okayama International Circuit
Fraga’s next race will be his first SFL event in almost two months, Super Formula Lights Rounds 13-15 (9-10 September) where he will be aiming for his second victory this season.
Competing in the GTWS and travels to Europe
Turning the clock back a little, here’s what Fraga was doing just before his Super GT race at Suzuka. After competing in Super GT Rd. 4 (Fuji), Fraga flew to the Netherlands to compete in the Gran Turismo World Series (GTWS) Showdown 2023 held in Amsterdam. He competed as part of the 3-man team representing Brazil in the Nations Cup.
In the Grand Final race, held on Saturday 12 August, the Brazilian team finished in 3rd place, winning Fraga a place on the podium.
'Previous Nations Cup races had all been individual competitions, but this year it became a team race. Being able to rely on my teammates, I wasn’t only focused on the race and I was able to enjoy looking around the city as well so overall it was a really fun event.'
Fraga competing for Brazil in the GTWS Showdown, held in Amsterdam on 11-12 August
The Brazilian team take 3rd on the podium in the Grand Final
After racing in the Showdown, Fraga visited Germany. There he participated in a development test for FANATEC, the leading brand in sim-racing hardware and supporters of Fraga’s career acting as his personal sponsor.
After a whirlwind tour of Europe, Fraga returned to Japan and immediately headed to the Mobility Resort Motegi in Tochigi to attend a Super Formula Championship event in his role as an ambassador. After returning to Japan, Fraga had driven himself to events. He looked back on the hectic period, commenting 'After stopping again and again at service stations just to take a break, I finally made it back home.'
With little time to rest, Fraga managed to win his first points for himself and his team in Super GT Rd.5. Keep watching Igor Fraga’s career as he trots the globe striving to become the best in both real and virtual motorsports.
SUPER GT 2023 Round 5 at Suzuka: Highlights
For more information on Igor Omura Fraga’s real-world racing competition in 2023, please consult the ‘Igor Fraga Reports’ page.