SUPER GT racers get first taste of Hockenheim
During a pair of one-hour test sessions on Thursday, the drivers from the Japanese SUPER GT series got their first taste of the Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg where they will be racing together with the DTM regulars in the DTM season finale this weekend.
No lap-times were published, but Jenson Button, driving the Honda NSX-GT, Lexus drivers Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa and Nissan pairing Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda racked up many laps and gained valuable insight ahead of the weekend.
Late in the afternoon, a group photograph of the 21 cars from six different manufacturers, the highest number in DTM history, was taken on the start and finish straight at Hockenheim.
Super GT contingent enthuse about DTM link-up
Prior to the first joint on-track activities together with the DTM regulars in Friday’s pair of free practice sessions, the guest drivers from the Japanese series spoke about their experience and their expectations during a special press conference.
“It is a unique thing in motorsport for two high-level race series to have a joint event,” Jenson Button said. “I am looking forward to a very exciting fight. It is really special for the fans and for everyone involved. Testing yesterday enabled us to get used to the track and the tyres. It is an advantage to be racing on my own, because I can set up how I like it, rather than having to find a compromise with a teammate.”
Ryo Hirakawa explained how the DTM’s Hankook tyres were the great unknown quantity for the Super GT drivers. “DTM drivers know the Hankook tyre well, they can do more on set-up. We don’t do a lot of work in terms of set-up, we just change tyres, so we can learn a lot there.”
Ryo Hirakawa underlined that it would be difficult to adapt to DTM’s control Hankook tyres
Nick Cassidy has raced on the DTM platform when he was in Formula 3. “I am proud to be here together with these guys, it is a big deal for me. I have always looked up to the DTM,” he said.
SUPER-GT record champion Ronnie Quintarelli was already at Hockenheim when the Japanese did some demonstration laps during the season finale two years ago. “When NISMO told me that I would be coming here again, I was really happy. In Japan, we have great fans, but we were happy to see so many fans here yesterday already. It is great great to see the passion among the German fans, they are like in Japan.”
Nissan driver Matsuda recalled watching grands prix at Hockenheim in his youth
Driving at Hockenheim one day was a childhood dream for Tsugio Matsuda, as he revealed: “I watched Schumacher racing here. And there is the history of the circuit with Senna and so on. It is an honour to race here. I also raced at the Nürburgring this year. Gaining experience outside of Japan is very good for me.”
While all of Thursday’s running was held in dry conditions, rain set in for the opening free practice session on Friday. Button ended the opening 45 mins fastest of the three SUPER GT outfits – he finished 16th, with a time of 1m50.489s.
Matsuda was 19th, with a 1m53.871s; Cassidy failed to set a representative lap-time after running off the road at the Sachs Kurve early in the session, he set a 2m14.501s to finish 20th.