Sportsland SUGO, July 28: Known for always producing an exciting race, this year's SUPER GT event in Japan's northeast lived up to its reputaton - and then some. With just 10 laps remaining in the 81-lap race, the top four cars all went out, mostly due to some very aggressive driving, plus one or two miscalculations.
The dramatic turn of events vaulted a whole new crop of cars into the limelight, and it was the day-glo orange ARTA (Autobacs Racing Team Aguri) Honda HSV-010 GT of Ralph Firman and Kosuke Matsuura that took full advantage, Matsuura diving up the inside of the KeePer TOM'S SC430 to take a lead he would not relinquish. It was the first victory in three years for the former champions - and was welcomed by team personnel and fans alike. Second place went to Andrea Caldarelli in the KeePer TOM'S SC430, while a resurgent MOTUL AUTECH GT-R made it three manufacturers on the podium - once again.
GT300 was equally enthralling - at least for the ARTA squad. Their #55 ARTA Honda CR-Z GT (Shinichi Takagi/Takashi Kobayashi) began the event in second place, before breifly falling to third at one-quarter distance. It was in the pits that things turned around however, as Kobayashi got out ahead of the then-leading MUGEN CRZ-GT and into a safe lead. Impeccable driving in rapidly changing conditions ensured he held on to the flag, taking the team's second victory in a row after also winning in Malaysia. The pair of Honda CR-Z GT entries now occupy the top two positions in the GT300 series' rankings.