Tomoki Nojiri is confident that the tyre warm-up problems that cost the ARTA Honda team a likely victory in the previous SUPER GT race at Fuji will not be repeated this weekend at Suzuka.
Nojiri and teammate Nirei Fukuzumi secured a third pole of the 2020 season on Saturday, as Fukuzumi eclipsed fellow Honda driver Takuya Izawa in qualifying.
But a variety of issues during the races themselves this season have prevented the #8 Honda crew from fulfilling the clear potential they have shown over a single lap.
ARTA appeared well-placed to end its winless run last time out at Fuji as Fukuzumi led most of the opening stint, but a disastrously slow out lap after the ex-Formula 2 racer handed over to Nojiri allowed the SARD Toyota to pass and ultimately take victory.
Nojiri regrouped to finish third, which marked the best finish of the season for ARTA and only its second top-10 placing of a troubled campaign.
But the 31-year-old believes that the team has been able to address that problem for this weekend’s second visit of the season to Suzuka.
Nojiri told Motorsport.com: “We have the speed in qualifying, but in the race I can’t feel the response from the car that I want. Speaking about my feeling when I’m driving, I’m not so confident when I’m attacking.
“In qualifying we can overcome that with the sheer grip of the tyres. In the race it’s not so easy, there’s a lot of oversteer and it’s very difficult to warm up the tyres.
“Because of the lack of rear downforce and the rear grip, it’s difficult to feel confident and it’s the same in the warm-up phase, it’s difficult to go flat out and attack.
“But we’ve worked on it, and this weekend it’s much better. This morning in practice, the warm-up gave me no bad impressions, so I’m confident and I believe that what happened in the last race won’t happen again.”
Nirei Fukuzumi, Tomoki Nojiri（#8 ARTA NSX-GT）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The ARTA Honda is carrying only 32kg of success ballast this weekend, making it the second-lightest of the five-strong NSX-GT contingent behind only the Nakajima Honda.
With the GT500 handicaps being halved in the next race at Motegi and then eradicated entirely for the final round of the season at Fuji, Nojiri admitted that Sunday represents a “very big chance” for he and Fukuzumi to clinch their first victory as a pairing.
“The weather is stable this weekend, and it’s easy to show the performance because we’re light,” he added. “We want to aim for the win.
“From the last race, I have a feeling there has been a lot of negativity towards our performance, so we want to break that and really show what we can do.”
Nojiri and Fukuzumi are currently 11th in the standings on 16 points, 31 behind the championship-leading Cerumo Toyota pair of Sho Tsuboi and Kazuya Oshima that could qualify 10th at Suzuka.
Despite a chance to considerable narrow that deficit this weekend, Nojiri says the focus is not on getting back in title contention ahead of the final two races.
“We’re just focussed on trying to deliver the best possible result each race, we’re not thinking about the championship,” he said. “But, as a Honda driver, it’s important for us to score as many as points as possible to take points away from Toyota and Nissan.”
#8 ARTA NSX-GT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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