Nissan SUPER GT drivers Ronnie Quintarelli and Bertrand Baguette believe the Z has the potential to fight at the front of the field at Okayama based on last weekend’s pre-season testing at the track.
While Toyota topped both days of the two-day test, Sunday saw Nissan come close to the lead, with the #23 NISMO Z of Tsugio Matsuda setting the second fastest time, just 0.130s behind the leading TOM’S Toyota of Sho Tsuboi.
That put the NISMO machine shared by Matsuda and Quintarelli in fifth place in the combined order for the test, one of just a handful of GT500 cars to set their best time on day two.
While Nissan has been aiming for a reduction in drag and an increase in top speed with the new Z, four-time GT500 champion Quintarelli believes the car has the ability to compete against Toyota and Honda even in a more technical layout like Okayama.
“The feeling was immediately better than I expected,” Quintarelli told Motorsport.com. “I expected to fight more between high and low speed to find a good compromise. The car wasn’t bad.
“We usually have this kind of weather in mid-April. We expected the track temperature to be five or ten degrees lower, so we’re not in the tire range [we brought here].
“The competition in the GT500 is huge and the others are improving too. If you’re missing a tenth or two [in qualifying] You are in the second half of the grid. All the details have to work well but I feel like we have the potential to do that.”
Second fastest of the Nissan contingent at Okayama was the No. 3 NDDP race car, which set its best time on Saturday with Mitsunori Takaboshi at the wheel and finished eighth overall.
The Impul Z, which uses Bridgestone tires as opposed to the Michelin-tired #3 and #23 cars, was tenth fastest with Kazuki Hiramine at the wheel, 0.396 off the pace.
Hiramine’s teammate Baguette noted that Nissan’s absence from a private test held at Okayama in February meant the marque could be content to be so close to the performance of Toyota and Honda.
The Belgian told Motorsport.com: “It’s our first test here with the new car, we didn’t test with Honda and Toyota last month so they have an advantage. The good news is that we’re close, even if the set-up doesn’t suit the track yet.
“It was too much to expect to finish P1 when the other guys have already tested here and have data from their cars for the last two years. We have to start from scratch, we can’t use the setup of the GT-R.
“But I think there is potential. I feel Okayama can match the Z, Fuji will probably be too, we just need to work a bit more to understand the car.”