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Super GT Rd 3 Report – Fuji
Lyons Leads Lexus 1-2

The Fuji leg of the Japanese Super GT Series is always a much anticipated event and this year, coming as it did in "Golden Week", and with the longer distanced 500km race, there was much to look forward to. A big crowd is always a feature at the high-speed, 4.56km Fuji Speedway, being the home of Toyota, and no doubt they were looking forward to seeing whether the SC430 Lexus cars could match up to the Nissan GT-Rs which had outpaced them in the opening two rounds at Suzuka and Okayama.

One advantage for the #36 Petronas TOM'S SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka/Andre Lotterer) and #38 Zent Cerumo SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa/Richard Lyons) cars was that, due to their previous results, they were carrying less success ballast so victory at Fuji was definitely the target for the weekend.

Qualifying – 3rd May:

The first part of the morning qualifying session, in which the quickest 10 cars in each category were identified for the afternoon ‘Super Lap’, was hampered by intermittent rain, some of which was quite heavy. Due to the constantly changing track conditions, everyone went out early to try and get in a ‘banker’ lap and the timing of the runs, together with choice of tyres, made a big difference to the eventual qualifying times.

The quickest times were recorded by teams who managed to make successful runs on slicks and the biggest winner was the #32 Epson NSX of Loic Duval who ran a 1:41.115s lap to take the lead. Then, shortly after the start of the mixed (GT300 and GT500) session, the #39 Denso Dunlop Sard SC430 (Andre Couto) became the first machine to dip under the 1:41s barrier with a time of 1 min. 40.985 sec. for a tentative hold on pole position. With four Honda NSX and five Lexus SC430 cars amongst the ten for the Super Lap, things were certainly looking to have turned around; Matsuda’s Nissan GT-R was the only interloper here.
Les qualifications
In a dry second, afternoon qualifying session the pecking order was changed around and it was Takashi Kogure who put his #18 Takata Dome Racing Honda NSX at the top of the time sheets, just three hundredths of a second ahead of the #38 Lexus of Yuji Tachikawa and the #35 (also Lexus) of Peter Dumbreck.

In the GT300 class it was the wonderfully named (too many cartoons obviously being shown in Japan) Lightning McQueen MR-S of Kohei Hirate and Keisuke Kunimoto which took pole position, ahead of Mitsusada and Ikeda’s Kumho Boxter-GT.

Race – 4th May:

The race kicked off at 2 pm (local) and, while the sky had been overcast in the morning, a humid breeze moved in and dark clouds began to form over the neighbouring mountains. It didn’t, however, rain.

The pole-sitting #18 NSX of Kogure ran strongly in the lead until the 22nd of the 110 lap race when he spun off the track – alone and without assistance. Although Kogure managed to get back on the track almost immediately, he lost the lead to Tachikawa’s #38 Zent Cerumo SC430. At this point the order of the top six runners was #38, #18, the #35 Houzan Kraft SC430 (Peter Dumbreck), the #100 Raybrig NSX (Yuji Ide), #36 Petronas TOM'S SC430 (Andre Lotterer), and the #32 Epson NSX (Loic Duval). At the end of lap 26, the #1 Arta NSX (Ralph Firman) was the first of the GT500 class to make its pit stop, changing the two rear tyres and refuelling, with Firman remaining at the wheel.

After the 30th lap the other teams began to make their first pit stop. The 2nd-place runner, No. 18, made its pit stop on lap 33, while the leader, No. 38, waited until lap 38. Kogure remained at the wheel of No. 18, while No. 38 changed drivers from Tachikawa to Richard Lyons.

By lap 42 all of the GT500 machines except the #23 Xanavi NISMO GT-R had completed their pit stops; the strategy of the #23 being that – by running fuel efficiently - only one pit stop would be needed.

At the end of lap 65, #1 made its second pit stop, changing drivers from Firman to Takuya Izawa and all four tyres. In contrast, #18 and #100 shortened their time in the pits by changing only their rear tyres. Later, both #35 and #36 would change all four tyres, but the latter’s TOM’S team were slicker with the pit work and, when the leaders had returned to the track, the new order was #36 (Juichi Wakisaka), #35 (Tatsuya Kataoka), #100 (Hosokawa) and #18 (Michigami).

The leader, #38, was the last to make its pit stop on lap 75, changing drivers again from Lyons to Tachikawa, and returning to the track still in the lead. Behind them, however, four cars were closing the gap led by Wakisaka and with Michigami bringing up the rear. The leader kept his cool and a good pace and, despite the fact that his tyres were not yet up to the same temperature as his rivals’, was able to defend his lead through to the finish.

Meanwhile the competition between the next four cars was hotting up. On lap 96 Michigami in #18 passed #35 (Kataoka) and, on the first corner of the next lap, Hosokawa in the #100 NSX drew up along side #36 (Wakisaka) and slipped by on the inside of the Coca Cola Corner. These changes put him up to second followed by #36 in third, #18 in fourth and #35 in fifth – all of them either an NSX or Lexus.

With five laps remaining it looked as if there would be no more changes but, at the hairpin, Hosokawa (#100) spun out while running alone and was passed by #36 (Wakisaka) and #18 (Michigami). With this, the two SC430 machines of Lyons/Tachikawa and Wakisaka/Lotterer went on to a 1-2 finish. It was the first win for the Lexus SC430 since round six of last year’s series, the Suzuka 1000km, and the win also extended Tachikawa’s record for the most SUPER GT/JGTC wins to 10. The first Nissan, driven by Matsuda/Philippe finished ninth.

For Lyons, it was his first win as a Toyota driver and, as already noted in a separate feature yesterday, he became only the second driver in GT history to win GT500 races driving for all three of the major domestic makers – Nissan, Toyota and Honda.

GT300:  The longer race distance brought pit stop strategy very much to the fore for the GT300 runners, with teams having to decide between fuel economy and one pit stop or higher speed and two stops. One stop only was a high risk strategy not only from the fuel point of view, but also as regards tyre management and the endurance capabilities of the drivers.

The #95 pole sitter, Lightning McQueen MR-S, of Kunimoto/Hirate opted for the one-stop strategy and played it to perfection with the rookie drivers taking their first GT win of the series. Coming off the back of their first Super Lap qualifying and first pole position the day before, it was really a weekend to celebrate for the young driver pairing. For Kunimoto, who is just 19 years and four months old, the win also gave him the record for being the youngest driver ever to win a GT race. Second place went to the #46 Nissan of Kazuki Hoshino/Hironobu Yasuda and third to the #2 Privée KENZO Asset Shiden MC/RT of Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh.

With thanks to

Results - GT500

1 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 Yuji Tachikawa/ Richard Lyons 3:02'28.036 110 BS 10
2 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 Juichi Wakisaka/Andre Lotterer 0'13.882 110 BS 20
3 18 TAKATA DOME NSX Ryo Michigami/Takashi Kogure 0'15.893 110 BS
4 100 RAYBRIG NSX Yuji Ide/Shinya Hosokawa 0'16.693 110 BS +1
5 35 houzan KRAFT SC430 Peter Dumbreck/ Tatsuya Kataoka 0'23.497 110 BS
6 6 ENEOS SC430 Daisuke Ito/Bjorn Wirdheim 0'32.048 110 BS +1
7 32 EPSON NSX Loic Duval/Katsuyuki Hiranaka 1'03.639 110 DL
8 25 ECLIPSE ADVAN SC430 Takeshi Tsuchiya/Hiroaki Ishiura 1Lap 109 YH +1
9 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R Tsugio Matsuda/Sebastien Philippe 1Lap 109 BS
10 17 REAL NSX Katsutomo Kaneishi/Toshihiro Kaneishi 1Lap 109 BS +1
11 24 WOODONE ADVAN Clarion GT-R J.P.L. De Oliveira/Seiji Ara 1Lap 109 YH
12 22 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R Michael Krumm/Masataka Yanagida 1Lap 109 BS 40
13 39 DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 Toranosuke Takagi/Andre Couto 2Laps 108 DL +1
14 23 XANAVI NISMO GT-R Satoshi Motoyama/Benoit Treluyer 3Laps 107 BS 55
15 3 YellowHat YMS TOMICA GT-R Ronnie Quintarelli/Naoki Yokomizo 24Laps 86 BS
Classified (GT500: 77 Laps)
1 ARTA NSX Ralph Firman/Takuya Izawa 34Laps 76 BS

GT300 Class

1 95 Lightning McQueen apr MR-S Kohei Hirate/Keisuke Kunimoto 3:02'34.661 101 MI +1
2 46 MOLA LEOPALACE Z Kazuki Hoshino/Hironobu Yasuda 0'26.739 101 MI
3 2 Privée KENZO Asset Shiden Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh 0'44.019 101 YH 40
4 31 DOUBLEHEAD avex apr MR-S Kyosuke Mineo/Yuya Sakamoto 0'44.143 101 MI +1
5 81 DAISHIN ADVAN Z Takayuki Aoki/Tomonobu Fujii 0'46.679 101 YH 10
6 62 WILLCOM ADVAN VEMAC 408R Haruki Kurosawa/Shogo Mitsuyama 1'13.807 101 YH
7 43 ARTA Garaiya Morio Nitta/Shinichi Takagi 1'26.631 101 MI
8 4 EBBRO UEMATSU 320R Ryohei Sakaguchi/Masaki Matsushita 1Lap 100 YH +1
9 19 WedsSport IS350 Manabu Orido/Tsubasa Abe 1Lap 100 YH
10 5 Proµ MACH-GO 320R Tetsuji Tamanaka/Naoya Yamano 1Lap 100 YH +1
11 110 KUMHO BOXSTER-GT Hidetoshi Mitsusada/Daisuke Ikeda 2Laps 99 KH +1
12 11 JIMCENTER ADVAN F430 Tetsuya Tanaka/Masayuki Ueda 2Laps 99 YH +1
13 118 4CARAT SON GT3 Takashi Miyamoto/Masayuki Kurihara 2Laps 99 YH +1
14 111 ARKTECH BOXSTER-GT Hiroshi Koizumi/Tsubasa Kurosawa 2Laps 99 KH +1
15 27 ISHIMATSU RYUMA HANKOOK GT3 Takashi Inoue/Hwang Jin-Woo 3Laps 98 HK +1
16 88 triple a GALLARDO RG-3 Hideshi Matsuda/Naohiro Furuya 5Laps 96 YH
17 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE Mitsuhiro Kinoshita/Masami Kageyama 6Laps 95 HK +1
18 77 CUSCO DUNLOP SUBARU IMPREZA Tetsuya Yamano/Kota Sasaki 8Laps 93 DL
19 7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 Hiroyuki Iiri/Ryo Orime 10Laps 91 YH 55
20 70 GaishanoGaikokuya & LMP Porsche Akazame Oyaji/Yutaka Yamagishi 31Laps 70 YH +1
Classified (GT300: 70 Laps)
666 Rakuten BOMEX 320R Shogo Suho/Junichiro Yamashita 33Laps 68 KH +1
52 GREEN TEC KUMHO IS350 Takuya Kurosawa/Takuto Iguchi 40Laps 61 KH
87 AKTIO GALLARDO RG-3 Hisashi Wada/Muneyuki Kurihara 47Laps 54 YH
26 YUNKER POWER TAISAN PORSCHE Nobuteru Taniguchi/Shinichi Yamaji 69Laps 32 YH 20
66 triple a MURCIE RG-1 Koji Yamanishi/Atsushi Yogo 81Laps 20 YH
16 CHUGAI UEMATSU 350R Tadao Uematsu/Katsuhiko Tsutsui 84Laps 17 YH +1

In the Drivers Championship, Motoyama and Tréluyer, thanks to their two previous victories, remain at the top of the tables with 46 points but they are now only 11 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Tachikawa and Lyons, and 12 points ahead of Wakisaka and Lotterer. Peter Dumbreck lies in 7th, just ahead of last year’s Champion, Ralph Firman.