NISMO wins as Nissan takes podium
Matsuda, at the wheel of the No.23 NISMO car, hairpinly passed his fellow Nissan / Michelin Kohei Hirate at the wheel of the No.3 GT-R NDDP / B-Max Racing at 41st of 52, both cars having gained ground in the pit stop phase.
The # 24 Kondo Racing Nissan finished third, making it the first lockout on the Nissan podium since the Autopolis round in 2014.
Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino took an important fourth place in the # 1 Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT, catapulting Yamamoto to the top of the drivers’ standings, while the # 36 TOM’S GR Supra (Yuhi Sekiguchi / Sho Tsuboi) completed the top five at the end of a weekend to forget for Toyota.
History of the race
The two Dunlop Honda’s that started on the front row got away well at the start as Takuya Izawa in the # 64 pole-winning Nakajima NSX-GT led Toshiki Oyu in the Mugen car.
But Izawa’s time in the lead was short-lived as he crashed on lap five of the final chicane following what appeared to be brake failure, resulting in a safety car period.
Oyu led the restart ahead of Quintarelli in the Nissan which started third, Daiki Sasaki finishing third in the Kondo Nissan and Katsumasa Chiyo in the NDDP / B-Max GT-R # 3.
But the Dunlop Causeway Mugen could not move away from the front of the field, and the cars that made their mandatory stops earlier were the ones that gained the most ground.
Oyu stopped on lap 20 to hand the Mugen car to Ukyo Sasahara, but it was Chiyo’s # 3 Nissan – although it stopped on the same lap – that came out of the stopping phase with the advantage ahead of Kazuki Hiramine’s # 12 Nissan Impul (started by Nobuharu Matsushita).
NISMO’s # 23 flagship car lost ground as Quintarelli left it until lap 24 to pass the baton to Matsuda, who came out third behind the NDDP / B-Max car, now with Hirate at the wheel, and Hiramine’s Impul machine but ahead of Sasahara’s Mugen Honda.
As Hirate extended his lead to the front of the peloton, Hiramine was quickly overtaken by a charging Matsuda, who then only tapped into the five-second buffer built by Hirate.
With a few drops of rain falling as the race entered its finals, Matsuda took the decisive step into the hairpin on lap 41, as the Kondo Nissan GT300 car opened up an opportunity for a slot.
From there, Matsuda was on his way to a symbolically significant 23rd GT500 victory and a 17th for Quintarelli, with the duo also securing their third consecutive victory at Suzuka.
Hirate and Chiyo had their best duet result in second, but Hiramine was powerless to resist Kondo Nissan (now in the hands of Mitsunori Takaboshi) in the fight for third place.
Hiramine then lost new places to Yamamoto’s Honda Kunimitsu and Tsuboi in Toyota TOM’S – despite both cars fitted with the stage one fuel limiter – bringing the Impul machine back to sixth and last place among the Nissan.
Honda Real Racing (Koudai Tsukakoshi / Bertrand Baguette), also with the fuel limiter, racked up valuable points for seventh after a heated battle with Cerumo Toyota (Yuji Tachikawa / Hiroaki Ishiura) late in the evening.
Sasahara brought the No.16 Mugen car down to a disappointing ninth place, while the No.37 TOM’S GR Supra (Ryo Hirakawa / Sena Sakaguchi) took the last point in 10th place.
With the Toyota Rookie Racing (Kazuya Oshima / Kenta Yamashita) leading the championship the only car on the field to use the restriction of the second stage, not having scored points for a second race in a row, it means that Yamamoto is now 40 points, five ahead of Oshima and Yamashita at the top of the drivers’ standings.
The GT300 class was won by the Toyota GR Supra # 244 Max Racing of Atsushi Miyake and Yuui Tsutsumi, the team taking their first SUPER GT victory.