The Autopolis race saw the top four positions in both qualifying and the race monopolised by so-called JAF GT300 cars (officially GTA-GT300), as Saitama Toyopet Toyota GR Supra pair Hiroki Yoshida and Kohta Kawaai scored their second win in succession to all but clinch this year’s title.
Best of the FIA GT3-spec cars was the Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of de Oliveira and team-mate Teppei Natori in fifth, but the result was not enough to keep de Oliveira in contention for a third GT300 title in the space of four seasons.
De Oliveira said it was no surprise that the ‘JAF’ machines dominated at a track renowned for being tough on tyres, as he and Natori ended up a lap down at the finish.
“Considering the track layout, especially the technical last sector, when the JAF cars are 150kg lighter they can be very easy on the tyres,” de Oliveira told Motorsport.com.
“They can maintain their lap times much more easily than the GT3s, which are punishing their tyres. It’s something that can be looked at, and I’m sure the other GT3 teams feel the same way.
“When the situation is so obvious, like it was this weekend, it’s natural that people start thinking about this.”
De Oliveira and Natori recovered from a lowly 17th on the grid with an unusual strategy of making both mandatory pitstops just two laps apart, only changing tyres once before making a ‘splash’ at the second stop.
The Brazilian driver said that the team made the decision to avoid having to pass cars on-track, something he feels has been made difficult by a lack of straight line speed.
“We needed to do something different because we don’t have top speed,” explained de Oliveira. “I cannot overtake anyone on the straight, and I can’t even stay in the slipstream of the Mercedes or the Audi.
“This used to be the GT-R’s strength, but this has been taken away from us. Compared to the other GT3 cars, we are 8-10km/h down.”
De Oliveira was sanguine about the way he and Natori’s title bid came to an end, the duo having scored just a single point in the two races prior to Autopolis at Suzuka and Sugo.
That was after the Kondo Nissan shed a wheel at Suzuka before Natori was involved in the crash that took out Honda GT500 driver Naoki Yamamoto at Sugo, earning a penalty that left he and de Oliveira 10th.
“If it wasn’t for the accident at Sugo and the failure at Suzuka, we could have been up there because we would have good results at both tracks and had a margin,” he admitted. “We would be fighting head-to-head with the #52 [Saitama Toyopet car].
“But that’s the way things go sometimes – we’ll do our best to finish second overall, and then we’ll try again next year.”
For next week’s season finale at Motegi, the GT-R has been given an increased minimum weight of 1370kg, up 35kg from Autopolis, but also a turbo boost increase, bringing it back in line with the levels it had for last year’s finale.