P3 overall for NISMO Nissan crew “acceptable”

Quintarelli and his team-mate in the flagship #23 Nissan car, Tsugio Matsuda, wrapped up their 2023 campaign last weekend at Motegi by finishing second behind the title-winning #36 TOM’S Toyota of Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata.

That result lifts Quintarelli and Matsuda to third overall, one place behind the NISMO-run NDDP Nissan crew of Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi, who lost any hopes of winning the title when Takaboshi spun off from the lead in the latter stages.

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The #23 crew’s title hopes took a major hit in June’s Suzuka round when Matsuda suffered a huge crash at 130R, which also left the car facing a costly penalty for taking a fresh chassis at the following race at Fuji.

Quintarelli and Matsuda rebounded from that to finish second on the series’ return to Suzuka in August, but then they were disqualified for a skid block violation, before they earned runner-up finishes at Sugo and then in the Motegi finale.

“I would say this season, after so many things happened, it was good to finish P3 in the standings,” Quintarelli told Motorsport.com. “It’s an acceptable result considering what happened to us, many races with zero points.

“The negative thing this year is we have been still struggling with the speed, especially in qualifying. But even though we were not fast enough to win the race, it was still our first time on the podium in the final race for many years at Motegi [since 2017]. 

“It was impressive to see the speed of the #3 [NDDP car], and while we weren’t as fast as them, I feel some relief to at least finish the season on the podium.”

Quintarelli and Matsuda were able to recover from fifth on the grid at Motegi to finish second following Takaboshi’s spin, but never looked like truly challenging the TOM’S Toyota that only needed to finish second to deny Nissan the title even if the NDDP car won the race.

The Italian driver said the #23 crew had been able to make a step from qualifying on race day but was powerless to explain the deficit in speed to the sister #3 car in what was the farewell race for tyre supplier Michelin in the GT500 class.

“The #3 improved the lap time a lot in qualifying from practice,” said Quintarelli. “They were using the same type of tyre in practice and qualifying, whereas we held back our tyres for qualifying and the car was not perfect to drive. 

“For Sunday we made a big change on the set-up and the car was better to drive, but in the first stint I was pushing so hard and I was missing some speed. This is SUPER GT, all the small details add up to making a big difference. We have some work to do.”

Baguette: Motegi result sums up season for Impul

Outgoing champions Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine concluded their title defence in fourth place at Motegi from 10th on the grid, leaving them fifth in the final standings.

Looking back on the season, Baguette said that Impul’s qualifying woes throughout the season meant there was never any real chance of mounting a title challenge.

“This weekend was really a reflection of the whole season,” the Belgian driver told Motorsport.com. “We had no pace in qualifying for some reason, and when you start in P10, even if you have strong race pace, it’s impossible to do anything. 

“We were P5 in the championship, third of the Bridgestone cars… it’s not bad, but nothing to be happy about. Next year we have to find a solution for qualifying and if we can do that we can fight for the championship.”

Asked whether the prospect of the two NISMO cars switching to Bridgestone tyres could boost Impul’s form next season, Baguette replied: “If it’s the case then it would definitely help. 

“To be the only car on Bridgestone is very tough, so it would definitely be good news, but let’s wait and see what they decide.”

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