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2009 Super GT – Round 1 @ Okayama International Circuit
Submitted by Streetrally on Thursday, March 26, 2009 - 8:34pm

Finally, the 2009 racing season has begun! March 22nd marked the season opener for the 2009 Super GT series, and was sure to make the trip to cheer on the lone rotary entrant- the M7 MUTIARA MOTORS AMEMIYA SGC 7. Okayama International Circuit (formally known as TI Circuit Aida) is a course that has an interesting history. It actually hosted the 1994-95 Formula One Pacific Grand Prix events, and has been in the Super GT schedule since 1998, back when the series was still known as JGTC. Did the 7 fare as well in the race as it did in testing at this commemorated track? Find out after the jump.

Traditionally, Super GT events have a Friday practice session, Saturday qualifying event, and race on Sunday. This year marked a departure from said system. Due to the dismal economic environment, the Friday practice runs have been cancelled to save operation costs. Thus, every competitor was forced to go into qualifying with only two hours of provided practice on Saturday morning.

Conditions on Saturday were dry and sunny- perfect for a good day of racing. Though the morning practice session was cut short by the Advan Kondo GT-R running off course, the Amemiya FD managed to post the second fastest lap time in the GT300 class- thus allowing it to participate in the Super Lap. The Super Lap is the main qualifying event where the top eight practice times in each class are allowed a solo run around the course for the best time. Driver Nobuteru Taniguchi was selected to do the honors around the course, and was able to run it in a decent 1’32.567. Though it was only .032 seconds slower than their 2nd ranked practice time, it got them fourth on the starting grid for Sunday’s event.

Despite the lovely conditions on Saturday, race day was blighted by rain clouds over TI Circuit. The wet conditions meant that the teams had to deal with not only tire choices, but the spray coming off of the cars ahead of them. Also because of the rain, the race was to be started by a Safety Car lap instead of the traditional rolling start. Taniguchi was to lead the charge for the team, and he did not disappoint. Blazing around the track he managed to pass the No. 43 ARTA Garayia and No. 11 Jim Gainer F430 Ferrari, thus netting the FD a number two spot on the track.

Driver Ryo Orime did his best to try to catch up to the No. 19 Wedsport IS350, but the gap was too large to overcome. The IS 350 is powered by 3 liter NA V8 engine which is similar to the one they used in the Forumla Nippon series last year, so catching up would be a tough chore. After cruising for a while at the number two spot, the No.43 ARTA Garayia came blazing out of nowhere after it’s driver swap and was suddenly on the No. 7 machine’s tail at around lap 60. Orime managed to hold off the attack for two laps until the Garayia managed an artful inside line, overtook the 7, and never looked back.

Regardless of the overtake, the M7 MUTIARA MOTORS AMEMIYA SGC 7 managed to snag a podium finish in the first race of the season, netting a 3rd place standing with 14 points.

The 2009 Amemiya team has proved itself to be a strong contender this year with an updated machine and new pairing to command. Though to be fair, perhaps the outcome also has to do with the team’s new race queens. Say hello to the Mutiara Motors Girls.

They’re still a bunch of cuties.

The next event is to be held at Suzuka Circuit on April 19th. This is the track where last year’s machine took home the gold. Here’s hoping for a repeat performance this year.

On a fun side note, here is a street legal replica that Mr. Amemiya had built for himself.

And here is the actual race car.

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