Kunimitsu Honda saved from “terrible” opener

Japan’s premier sportscar racing series was able to complete its opening pre-season test at Okayama back in March before the spread of COVID-19 caused the 2nd test and the opening races of the summer season to be placed on hold.

The opening race will finally take place on July 18-19 at Fuji Speedway following last weekend’s two-day test at exactly the same track, that has been topped by Kunimitsu’s #100 NSX-GT.

Team newcomer Tadasuke Makino set the fastest time on the opening day, which turned into the best lap of the test – marking a substantial turnaround for the team after it struggled for pace in accordance with some of its fellow Honda teams throughout the Okayama test.

Yamamoto said that the three-month break had given Kunimitsu the chance to workout what choose to go wrong before, transforming the team’s prospects for the beginning of the season.

“We have had several tests since the new car was built and the performance wasn’t very good,” Yamamoto told Motorsport.com. “I couldn’t drive in the way I thought I’d be able to, and I was worrying about the team.

“We had some trouble during [private] testing in February, so we resolved the problems after which we visited the joint test in March [at Okayama].

“The movement of the car during those times wasn’t bad, but whether I was driving or Tadasuke was driving, it felt like there was something amiss with the set-up. But because neither the drivers nor the engineers can perhaps work out what it was, we were in some trouble.

“Then the spread of coronavirus created this delay, and in that time we could thoroughly identify the disadvantages and this time bring along this [stronger] car.”

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He added: “If we had to check out the original schedule, we would experienced to race just one month after the Okayama test. Honestly, to have the opening round because situation, it may have been terrible. It means this delay has allowed us to reset the automobile.

“Finally, we could run without dilemmas [at the Fuji test]. And so, we realised we’re able to run much faster, and furthermore the automobile had become easy to drive. It was a big relief.”

#100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT

Photo by: GTA

Commenting on the brand new front aerodynamic package Honda brought to the Fuji test, Yamamoto said the latest spec was “easier to drive” but he still isn’t sure which specification will undoubtedly be used for the Fuji opener this month.

“I did a comparative make sure found good points and bad points for each [specification],” that he explained. “So after thoroughly checking the data and listening to the comments from the drivers and the teams, finally Honda will decide which one to use.”

Yamamoto won the 2018 SUPER GT title along side Jenson Button but the pair experienced a hardcore title defence last year, failing woefully to win any races and placing eighth in the standings.

The 31-year-old feels bullish about his prospects along side new teammate Makino.

“There’s not much time until the first race, but if we have this car as the foundation, I feel like it’s enough to be able to fight,” that he said. “Now our expectations are larger than our anxieties.

“It will be the first race where all three manufacturers are fighting beneath the same rules [following Honda’s switch to a front-engined car], so my motivation as a driver is even more than usual. I’m looking forward to it a lot. I wish to win the opening race by any means.”

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