Fuji Speedway, November 24: The fourth running of the post-season FUJI SPRINT CUP (official name: JAF Grand Prix SUPER GT & SUPER FORMULA “FUJI SPRINT CUP 2013") saw a bumper crowd of over 70,100 fans descend on Fuji Speedway over the November 22-24 weekend.
The event highlights included single-class racing from SUPER GT, where GT500 and GT300 classes ran separate 22-lap (100km) sprints around the famous circuit on both Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the quartet of GT races, there was also a Super Formula event of equal distance, taking place on the Sunday afternoon.
As well as all the action from Japan's top two motorsport categories, fans were also there to see their heroes from the country's illustrious racing past. The "Legend's Cup", a one-make series of 23 identically-prepared Toyota FT86/Subaru BRZs featured an entry list that was a who's who of drivers across the history of Japanese motorsport. In the 10-lap race held on the Sunday morning, no quarter was given or expected as luminaries traded paint with foes from decades past while protecting their positions on track. Despite being only 10 laps, driver switches were mandatory - and provided some hilarity in the pits as the changeovers took place. In the end, it was the driver combo of former F1 pilot Ukyo Katayama and domestic hero Nobuteru Taniguchi that took the spoils.
Back to modern motorsport and the big winners in the SUPER GT GT500-class races included the Real Racing Honda HSV-010 GT of Kodai Tsukakoshi in Race 1, the fifth place-starter leaping past newly crowned GT500 champion Yuji Tachikawa for a lead he would never relinquish. The second GT500 race saw the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 of Kazuya Oshima take a lights-to-flag victory in the last-ever race for Lexus' SC430.
GT300 meanwhile provided intense action as the standing starts caught out a few of the drivers (who are used to rolling getaways), and kept the crowd on their feet. Of note was the spot-entered #35 NISSAN GLOBAL ATHLETE TEAM GT-R, piloted by GT Academy instructor Alex Buncombe in Race 1, and by 2008 GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez in Race 2. Buncombe made a textbook start, dashing into the lead and immediately controlling proceedings from the front. After building up a lead of over 10 seconds, a burst tyre instantly put paid to all his effort. Race 2 saw Ordonez in similar command, moving from a fifth-place start to lead after a couple of laps. Unfortunately, he too suffered a similar fate to Buncombe when another rear tyre failure meant an unscheduled visit to the pit.
The combined results of both races determined the winners of the JAF Grand Prix, where in GT500 it was the Real Racing HSV-010 GT who was victorious, its win and sixth-place finishes netting the top prize. In GT300 meanwhile, the GAINER DIXCEL SLS took the title for the second year in a row after placing 2nd in both races.
The Super Formula sprint race was another hotbed of activity as 19 machines fought for the same piece of real estate when the lights went out. Leading the pack from pole, Yuji Kunimoto maintained his position into the first corner while skirmishes erupted behind. Kunimoto however, was never headed and ended the 22-lap sprint 1.6 seconds ahead of current WEC world champion Loic Duval in second, with a resurgent Tsugio Matsuda taking third.
Japanese motorsport megastar and regular IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato was a spot entry as teammate to newly crowned 2013 Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto. The former F1 driver faced misfortune however, lining up at the back of the grid after an unsuccessful qualifying. In the race he got past a couple of rivals, but the short distance meant there simply wasn't enough time to make real progress through the field.
Next year, the fifth running of the JAF GP will be held at an as-yet-unnamed circuit, expected to be announced in the New Year.