SUBARU BRZ Takes First Win in GT300
Suzuka Circuit, August 18: Race day dawned bright and sunny, and by the time the cars lined up on the grid ahead of the 12:30pm start, the temperature had soared to 34 degrees (ambient), with the track surface measured at a mighty 47 Celsius. At 1,000kms, this 173-lap race was going to be an utterly greuling six-hour sprint that would run into the twilight hours.
Leading away from pole, Ronnie Quintarelli maintained his position during the early laps, but had to pit earlier than planned due to tyre wear, and then watch as the #18 HSV set a succession of fastest laps with rookie Fred Makowiecki at the controls.
Fire onborad a GT300 machine brought out the Safety Car at approximately one-third distance, throwing the race into confusion. Errant pit calls from a number of teams resulted in a spate of penalties being handed out, playing a deciding factor in the outcome for a few competitors. Once things settled down again, the #1 MOLA GT-R had inherited the top spot. The #23, having made its stop at the best possible time, was vaulted into 2nd place, while the #18 Weider HSV - clearly the fastest car on track (just like in Sepang), was third.
The #1 GT-R then became the latest casualty of the peanlty system, sending the #23 machine into the lead! There it stayed until Makowiecki passed Yanagida at Spoon on lap 116. At the final regular pit stops on lap 139, the top three machines came in at the same time - and exited - in the same order. The NISMO-entered GT-R, known for having the quickest crew in the SUPER GT pitlane, got Quintarelli out in lightning-quick time, but the Dome guys were nearly as rapid and the HSV, now with Yamamoto onboard, stayed ahead by a whisker.
It was in that order that they crossed the finish line, Yamamoto taking he and Makowiecki's maiden GT500 victory. The #23 GT-R was second - Ronnie Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagida in the runner-up spot for the third time in succession at this race - though the result does place them at the top of the points' rankings. A battle for the final step on the podium between the #36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 and the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R went in the former's favour, though the latter now lies second in the points, just one behind the leaders.
In GT300, the #61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT built up a massive gap of over 2 seconds per lap in the early stages with Kota Sasaki and then Takuto Iguchi driving, only for the Safety Car to then instantly negate those gains. However, once the car was again underway (now with Tetsuya Yamano at the wheel), the machine's dominance was clearly demonstrated, the three-time class champion building up a one-minute twenty-second margin before handing over to third driver Iguchi for his second stint.
Having been the closest challenger in the early stages, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R lost any chance of a strong result after being hit with a 90-second stop-and-go penalty for entering the pit lane while the Safety Car was on track. This moved the #4 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW into second place, and with unexpected late-race dramas for the then-leading BRZ when flapping aerodynamics necessitated an emergency pit stop, the BMW shot into a two-second lead. The last thirty laps proved to be a close-fought affair as Sasaki hunted down the rival machine, eventually getting past just before Spoon with 14 laps remaining. It was an important victory for the R&D SPORT squad, the first for the BRZ - and judging by its outright pace, most certainly not its last!
Post-race inspection found a technical violation with the #4 BMW, promoting the #52 OKINAWA IMP Mercedes-Bens SLS AMG GT3 to second place, with the identical #62 LEON SLS taking third.