Pacific Ferrari can fight for SUPER GT wins after “big” step

Pacific Ferrari can fight for SUPER GT wins after “big” step

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Japanese-Italian driver Cozzolino set the best time in the GT300 class across the two-day test in the Pacific Ferrari he shares with gentleman racer Takeshi Kimura, as the team prepares for its sophomore SUPER GT season.

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Last year the squad showed flashes of potential, finishing fourth at Suzuka and losing a potential podium finish to a puncture at Motegi.

But after a strong winter of testing that also yielded the third-fastest time in the previous Okayama test, Cozzolino told Motorsport.com he believes that he and Kimura are ready to take the next step in 2022.

“Compared to last year we are much more prepared,” Cozzolino said. “Last year was the first year for the Ferrari-Yokohama package, the team was new.

“This year we can build on last year’s experience and we have a better combination with the tyre. We were also able to test at Okayama for a few days prior to the official tests, which we didn’t do last year.

“It’s really difficult to see everybody’s potential. We are always flat out, but it’s hard to tell if the others are holding something back. So I can’t be too excited until we get to Okayama.

“But we were able to do a laptime faster than we did in qualifying last year at Fuji in Golden Week. So I think we made a big improvement compared to last year.”

Best GT300 test times from Fuji:

Pos.No.Car/TeamDriverLaptime
19Pacific CarGuy Ferrari 488 GT3Kei Cozzolino1’36.142
218UpGarage Honda NSX GT3Takashi Kobayashi1’36.230
361Subaru/R&D Sport BRZ GT300Hideki Yamauchi1’36.611
488JLOC Lamborghini GT3Takashi Kogure1’36.684
587JLOC Lamborghini GT3Natsu Sakaguchi1’36.696

Asked if he felt fighting for podiums or wins would be viable this season, Cozzolino replied: “Yes, definitely. That’s why we decided to do another year, and that’s why Kimura-san is working so hard.

“Recently he’s only driving the Ferrari. He’s doing the Le Mans 24 Hours, he’s doing ELMS, we’re doing the Japan Cup of GT World Challenge Asia… wherever we can race with a Ferrari, we’re doing it.

“We are one of the only Pro-Am teams in SUPER GT now. But in a way it’s become a tyre management series – if you get the right tyres at the right moment, and you can do a no-tyre change, then you’re up there. If we gamble and get lucky, we could win a race.”

He added: “We still need to work on qualifying. If Kimura-san can pass Q1, that would be a dream come true. But I think it’s realistic with the car we have now.”

Start Practice 1

Cozzolino’s pace-setting time at Fuji meant that FIA GT3 cars topped three of the four official test days, but at Okayama the GT300-rules cars (formerly JAF-GT300s) were accused by some of lapping a way off their ultimate pace.

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Asked whether he felt that was still the case at Fuji, Cozzolino said it remained difficult to be certain of whether the ‘JAF’ cars were going flat out.

“I could see they were lacking straight line speed,” he said. “But it’s honestly hard to tell if they are going flat out. I was also expecting more from the [Nissan] GT-Rs. It’s a little bit strange, I don’t know if they were going flat out but it looked like they were struggling.

“It looks like the midship [GT3] cars, the Honda NSX and Lamborghini Huracan, are more competitive this year, both on pure performance and race pace. I think it will be a good fight with the Lamborghini and the NSX, mainly.”

The Pacific Ferrari will have an all-pro line-up of Cozzolino and Naoki Yokomizo for the season opener at Okayama on April 16-17 with Kimura unavailable due to a clash with the European Le Mans Series.

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