SEPANG: It is hard to imagine Michael Schumacher having to race in his Ferrari car with weights added on after winning a previous round.
But this is what Yuji Tachikawa and Toranosuke Takagi of Zent Cerumo Supra will have to deal with in the third round of the Japan Super GT (Grand Touring) Championships, beginning here today.
And with hot weather conditions expected, the drivers will have to brace for their most challenging weekend yet.
The Tachikawa-Takagi combination clocked the fastest time in official practices and won the second round of the series at the Fuji Speedway last month and they will have 60kg added weight to their Toyota Supra for the races here.
Weights of up to 120kg are added on to the cars of podium finishers of the previous round to even up the competition for the other teams in the fray in the next round.
The second-placed finishers in Fuji, Michael Krumm-Masataka Yanagida will have 30kg on their Nissan Fairlady Z while Naoki Hattori-Shigekazu Wakisaka will have 20kg on their Toyota Supra. The fourth-placed finishers get 10kg and there will be no increase in weight for the fifth-placed team.
For the sixth-placed team, 10kg will be deducted while teams who finished seventh and below get a 20kg weight deduction.
The fastest car in practices get 10kg while 10kg will be added to the car that clocked the fastest lap on race day.
And former F1 driver Takagi said that there appeared to be no clear favourite for the round in Sepang.
“Any of the teams who have a car right on the pace can win this race as this circuit is wide and has plenty of overtaking opportunities,” he said.
“It will not be easy for us to win for the second time. We have to prepare for a more challenging set-up. The challenge is to adapt fast to a heavier car.”
Takagi-Tachikawa are the leaders of the GT500 category of the championships on 23 points.
And to make matters tougher, the drivers have to deal with the punishing hot track conditions.
The Sepang International Circuit (SIC) general manager, Ahmad Mustafa, said that fans were in for some thrilling races.
“It will be a different scenario altogether for the drivers. They are used to racing under cooler conditions in Japan. It will be hot and humid here,” he said.
“It is rare for the team to win back-to-back races because of the racing rules. This is one of the most open competition for production cars.”
Besides the GT500, the championships also feature the GT300 event. Fans will get to see top racing cars not only from the major Japanese manufacturers but also from Ferrari, Chevrolet, Porsche and Lamborghini.
Some of the drivers took the opportunity to go on a familiarisation tour of the track yesterday in rented vehicles. They will only get to check out the track in their racing cars in free practices today.