SUPER GT 2023 Opening Round at Okayama: Igor Omura Fraga Makes His Super GT Debut!
At the SUPER GT Series Round 1 hosted at the Okayama International Circuit on 15-16 April, Igor Omura Fraga made his much anticipated Super GT debut.
The Super GT is one of the most popular race series in Japan, featuring commercial GT cars. The race cars are divided into the GT500 and GT300 classes depending on the level of modifications.
Challenging the Super GT utilising experience from the world stage
Igor Fraga had participated in the European FIA-F3 championships as a part of the Red Bull Jr. Team until 2020. In the same year, he also won the series champion title in the formula car Toyota Racing Series. From 2022 he has moved to Japan, to pursue racing opportunities there.
"In the fall of last year, I wasn’t able to solidify my activities for 2023, and was concerned about what to do. But it just so happened that a friend I made through Gran Turismo introduced me to ANEST IWATA Racing, and all of a sudden things started going in to motion."
Igor Omura Fraga was born in Kanazawa city of the Ishikawa Prefecture on 26 September 1998, between his Brazilian father and 2nd generation Japanese-Brazilian mother. His father being a passionate automotive fan tried to have Igor start karting when he was 3, but at that age it was not possible for him to control a racing kart so he opted to have him practice virtually using 'Gran Turismo 3' that was available at the time.
3-year-old Igor learned to use the steering wheel, throttle and brakes on Gran Turismo 3, and debuted into the world of racing karts. Not satisfied with racing around the track in a kart, he also continued to drive at home in Gran Turismo. Igor continued to drive in both the real and virtual worlds at the same time, and proceeded to hone his skills in this way.
"Last year when I went to see ANEST IWATA Racing for the first time, I was surprised to find that there was someone who remembered me from my racing kart days. There were also people who know that I became a champion in the FIA Gran Turismo Championships, and had very high regards for me. The story progressed from there, and I was able to acquire a seat to compete in the 2023 Super GT Series and the Super Formula Lights championship."
Fraga competing in the Super GT 300 Class
Fraga has a contract with ANEST IWATA Racing this season, a brand new team that has started this year in the GT300 class. Fraga’s driving partners will be Yuga Furutani (2nd driver) who was racing in the Super Formula Lights until 2022, and the title winner of the 2022 Formula Regional Japanese Championship, Miki Koyama (3rd driver.) This is a totally fresh team with Fraga, Furutani, and Koyama all being rookies in the Super GT.
Driving the opening round was Fraga and Furutani, in the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3. Based on the mass-produced 'Lexus RC F,' this race car is modified to stay within the bounds of the FIA-GT3 regulations. In addition to frame reinforcements for high speed driving and suspension tuning, it is also armed with overfenders and other aero parts.
Aiming to win with teammates Miki Koyama (centre) and Yuga Furutani (right)
The Fraga and Furutani driver combo of the opening race
A chaotic turn of events in the Super GT debut race
The opening round of the Super GT Series that was also Fraga’s first race in Japan was ridden with bad weather. The official qualifying on Saturday was during difficult wet weather conditions, but ANEST IWATA Racing managed to get into a good position starting in 7th in the GT300 class. They would be able to acquire championship points if they finish within 10th place.
However during the final race on Sunday, the weather only turned for the worse: the Super GT is a race in which two drivers each run the first half or the last half of the race in the same car. In this race Furutani was the 1st driver, but it started raining just as the race began and the surface condition worsened rapidly. There were full course yellow flags (FCY) due to accidents on track and even an interruption with a safety car (SC), making the turn of events very different from a standard race.
The team had initially thought that the rain would not worsen, but in reality it became much heavier than expected. As a result the tyre change strategy did not go according to plan, which unfortunately led to loss of positions.
The weather recovered at one point, but when Fraga took over for the last half of the race, it worsened again. Another intervention with full course yellow flags and safety cars occurred, and ultimately the race was ended due to bad weather. Fraga was forced to end the race without being able to take back any of the lost positions.
ANEST IWATA Racing finished the final race in 12th place, unable to gain championship points awarded up to 10th place. Fraga, after having completed the opening round of the Super GT under chaotic race conditions in his first race in Japan, had this to say about the race:
"Of course I wanted to drive more. In this race in the end I was only able to drive around 10 laps. Ultimately it turned out that the teams who took a gamble with their strategy in the changing conditions gained the advantage. For me, it was the first time back in racing after two and a half years, and I am very happy to have been able to debut in racing in my mother’s home country. And I am happy to have been able to safely complete the difficult race. But the complex weather caused the race to be stopped early, and we were not able to acquire the desired points, so I do have mixed feelings about the results. I’m hoping we can really drive all out in the 2nd round on Fuji Speedway on May 3 and 4.”