There is a risk that TOMA’s #37 car will become a dubious part of SUPER GT history

While the No. 36 TOM machine of Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata is at the heart of the title fight, the same cannot be said for its sister No. 37 car of Ukyo Sasahara and Giuliano Alesi, who amassed just nine in the race points. first six races of the season.

In most years this would be enough to avoid last place among the 15 GT500 crews, but in recent seasons there has been such improvement, especially in the Dunlop and Yokohama shoes, that TOM’S, a powerful division of the Toyota stable, is in real danger of being .will be at the bottom of the pile when the dust settles.

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Sasahara and Alesi have two more rounds to spare themselves this fate, but right now they are at risk of becoming the first-ever TOMA pair to finish last in the rankings. It would be the team’s worst championship position since Seiji Ara and Toshio Suzuki in 2000, who finished 17th out of 20 full-season cars, also in the No. 37 car.

Moreover, the teams that have monopolized last place in recent years – namely Nakajima Racing, Kondo Racing and Team Mugen – have been able to point the finger at their tire suppliers, Dunlop in the case of Nakajima and Yokohama in the case of the other two. However, the last time the Bridgestone team finished last on the ARTA team was in 2012.

It’s safe to say that no one expected miracles from Sasahara and Alesi, especially after the latter’s uncompetitive debut season paired with Tsuboi in the number 36 car. However, this season in which Tsuboi and Alesi scored at least one podium and finished every race in points, looks like a picnic compared to the current campaign of the team with number 37.

Last month’s Sugo race seemed to give Sasahara and Alesi a good chance to stop the rot, as they made it to Q2 for only the second time of the season (and first time since the opening round in April), finishing a respectable sixth in qualifying.

Yet somehow the No. 37 duo managed to finish 11th on the course, earning only one point after the disqualification of the winning Real Racing Honda team. So what went wrong?

Team principal Jun Yamada admitted the No. 37 squad made a tire selection error due to lower-than-expected temperatures in Sugo and said Sasahara’s difficulty reaching the top of the GR Supra in his first year at the Toyota stable were also a factor.

“In the race the temperature was too low for us and we suffered from acceleration,” Yamada told “Giuliano has had big problems with tackling throughout his career, as has Ukyo.

“This is still Ukyo’s first year on Bridgestone tires, so he still needs to learn how to handle the lift properly. Plus, it’s his first year in the GR Supra, so he still doesn’t ride perfectly. The experience of the GR Supra is completely different than the Honda.

“We are in a difficult situation. Ukyo’s results were better than Giuliano, who is still performing at the same level as last year, but continues to struggle in every race. If we keep the same drivers next year, I’m sure the results will be better.

It’s fair to say the No. 37 crew has been a bit unlucky this year, especially with Sasahara’s first-round penalty at Okayama, and Alesi was hit by Toshiki Oyu’s ARTA Honda while scoring points at Suzuka in August. But then again, the same can be said for Kondo Racing and Cerumo, the two cars occupying the next lowest spots in the rankings.

The truth is that Sasahara and Alesi have not shown that the pace at the front of the grid is truly demanding, at least since the first round at Okayama.

This month’s penultimate round of the season at Autopolis is the last chance for Sasahara and Alesi to capitalize on their low handicap of success. Although the ballast has been halved, with 9kg on board they will still be carrying a full 40kg less than their counterparts in the No. 36 car, so the pressure is on to translate that helping hand into a solid result.

In particular, Alesi must ensure he finishes the year strong at Autopolis and Motegi to put himself in the best possible position to remain with TOM’S in 2024, especially with a team that is known to attract interest from many of the drivers currently racing in Europe.

“At Autopolis, the No. 37 car will still be relatively light,” Yamada said. “So we have to push and aim for the podium. Choosing tires is always difficult for Autopolis, but I think everything [Bridgestone] The GR Supra crews will use more or less the same thing.”

The title-fighting crew No. 36 faces a critical round at Autopolis

Meanwhile, the TOMA No. 36 crew faces a key race in hopes of winning this year’s championship. The disqualification of the Real Racing Honda at Sugo did Tsuboi and Miyata a great favor by not only awarding them an extra point, but also bringing the No. 3 NDDP Racing Nissan just over the threshold required to have a stage one fuel flow restrictor.

After the seasonal tire test at Motegi in early September, before the Sugo round, where the Michelin-booted No. 3 car was flying and the No. 36 car was a bit more subdued, Yamada knows TOM’S needs to get every possible point at Autopolis to rest up for the final race, which also proved to be a difficult event for the team last year.

“It was a difficult test for the No. 36 car at Motegi,” admitted Yamada. “The Michelin riders were very fast and our drivers said they didn’t feel much improvement with the tires. However, at Autopolis, the No. 36 car will not have a fuel flow restrictor and the No. 3 car will have a first-stage fuel restrictor, so this is a good chance for us to catch up.” shows all qualifying sessions and races of the 2023 SUPER GT season. For more information, click here.

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