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Super GT: Twin Ring Motegi, Race Report

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Konichi-wa from Motegi. The Super GT season came to a close over the weekend of 2-3 November at the Motegi circuit, located in verdant hill country about 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

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It is perhaps the best roval in existence—this is the way to build them, utilizing the best features of both disciplines. It is actually not a true roval in that the two circuits are not coterminous. The front straight of the road course parallels and is inside the oval (which is actually a tri-oval). It then switches back twice in the infield before tunneling under the high banking and heading for the hills. A couple of sweepers are followed by a hairpin and a very quick downhill medium length straight. The 4.8 km lap ends with a 90-degree right, a duck through the “Second Under Bridge” and a couple of somewhat jagged esses. The Super Speedway is, sadly, no longer in use as it suffered damage during the big earthquake of 2011.

The weather this time was that of more proper autumn. Cool, generally-though not always clear, quite a contrast to the WEC round held in Japan a fortnight previously.

While there has been much attention paid to the transition from ALMS / Grand-Am to TUSC, there is also a significant change about to take place in this well-regarded series. For 2014 the GT Association will adopt rules similar to DTM for their upper level class, GT500. It will in effect become a fully-spec class. All of the monocoques will be built by Dome, with only badge differentiation between the marques.

The current type of the flamboyant carbon monocoque GT500 cars are already well beyond what would be considered as production based anywhere else. The barely disguised prototypes are more akin to a silhouette formula anyway, so that adopting DTM specs is not a particularly big step. Whatever the underlying features, few will argue that Super GT has provided some of the best racing action of its kind anywhere in the world. This is done as much by the tech specs as by an adherence to more complex BOP standard and race-to-race adjustments than found elsewhere.

The notion of parity extends to the GT300 class, which sits somewhere astride GT3 and GTC specs used in other series. The GT500 entrants are all representatives of the Japanese big three, Toyota (badged as Lexus), Nissan, and Honda. The Lexuses are based on SC430, the Nissans on the Skyline GTR, and the Hondas are called HSV-10, a race version of a non-existent road car.

The GT300 entries have of late included popular models common in GT classes elsewhere, namely the Audi R8 LMS, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, BMW Z4, Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, Nissan Skyline, McLaren MP4-12C, and the Lamborghini Gallardo. There are also made-in-Japan specialties such as the popular hybrid Honda CR-Z, the Subaru BRZ, and a not too close to production rear-engine V6 Toyota Prius. The Honda not only leads the class coming into the finale, but has a huge following. The CR-Z is very popular and has a very well-subscribed grid from a one make support race to Super GT. It makes for one of the quietest responses to the call, “Drivers Flip the On Switch.”

The Super GT has existed in its present form as a major international series since 2005 when it replaced the former national Japan GT series, JGTC. The original intent was to spread through Asia, but instead the spread of the SARS epidemic quashed early efforts to hold races in China. There have been stop-start tries at holding race in Korea, but to date only Malaysia remains as a “foreign” round in this premier Japan-based championship.

The bulk of the races are 300 kilometer semi-sprint / endurance races with longer events held at Fuji and Suzuka. At 250 km, the season’s climax in Motegi is the shortest race. This puts a premium on qualifying. The meeting format tends to be condensed with practice on Saturday morning, followed by a knock-out qualifying procedure in the afternoon. Sunday morning warm-up at a Super GT race is like no other, as VIP carrying motor coaches circulate on the track with the racers. It offers the unique site of full-bore sports cars dodging trundling behemoths with camera-toting tourists pressing their noses against the glass.

Between the parity and just plain good competition, all of the titles in the series remained up for grabs coming into the finale. Eight teams were mathematically in the hunt for GT500 honors, although the situational odds favored the two Lexus crews at the top. Yuchi Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate were in the proverbial driver’s seat with the #38 Team Cerumo SC430, and they were the defending winners at Motegi.

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The #36 of Lexus Team Tom’s (Kazuki Nakajima / James Rossiter) came in a few points adrift but enjoyed the momentum of two race wins in the season, including the last round at Autopolis. Realistically, only the next two teams, both Hondas, had a fighting chance as if either #18 (Weider team, Naoki Yamamoto / Frederic Makowiecki) or #17 (Real Racing, Koudai Tsukakoshi / Toshihiro Kaneishi) won and the front-runners fared poorly, the points battle could have shifted decisively.

The Honda hybrid (#16, Hideki Mutoh / Yuki Nakayama) came in atop the standings in GT300, but had a difficult outing at Autopolis.

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This allowed their prime contender, the #4 of Nobeturu Taniguchi / Tatsuya Tanaoka, to close the gap. Another four cars came with a shot at the title with the #11 Mercedes (Gainer team, Katsuyuki Hiranaka / Bjorn Wirdheim) the best situated of the group. The Team Mugen Honda did come with an extra advantage, having taken maximum points at the Fuji Asian Le Mans series 3-hour race, which counted in the GT300 standings.

Here is a quick recap of this year’s seven rounds and winners:

Okayama 300 Km, overall, #100, Team Kunimitsu, Honda, Takuya Izawa / Takashi Kogure
GT300, #11, Gainer, Mercedes, Hiranaka / Wirdheim

Fuji 500 Km, overall, #36, Team Tom’s Lexus, Nakajima / Rossiter
GT300, #31, Apr, Toyota Prius, Morio Nitta / Koki Saga

Sepang, overall, #12, Team Impul, Nissan, Tsugio Matsuda / João Paulo de Oliveira
GT300, #55, Team Aguri, Honda CR-Z, Shinichi Takagi / Takashi Kobayashi

Sugo 300, overall, #8, Team Aguri, Honda, Ralph Firman / Kosuke Matsuura
GT300, #55, Team Aguri, Honda CR-Z, Takagi / Kobayashi

Suzuka 1000 Km, overall, #18, Weider Racing, Honda, Yamamoto / Makowiecki
GT300, #61, R&D Sport, Subaru BRZ, Tetsuya Yamano / Kota Sasaki / Takuto Iguchi

Fuji 300 Km, overall, #38, Team Lexus, Tachikawa / Hirate
GT300, #4, GSR, BMW Z4, Nobuteru Taniguchi / Tasuya Kataoka

Autopolis, overall, #36, Team Tom’s, Lexus, Nakajima / Rossiter
GT300, #4, GSR, BMW Z4, Tanighuchi / Kataoka

Lexus exuberance marked the early stages of the free practice session. First, Daisuke Ito in the #37 Team Tom’s entry spun into the gravel and about 20 minutes later so did Hirate on #38. Both brought out the red flag. Another championship contender, Hideki Mutoh, spun the GT300 class Honda, but was able re-juice it without requiring another tow truck intervention.

Despite the excursion, Hirate’s team maintained a strong hold on the fast lap in GT500, albeit there were 12 of the 15 cars in the class within a second of the Lexus’s time. Tachikawa set the session’s fast time of 1:41.887. Yamamoto (#18 Honda) was second for good portion of the period until being bettered by Hiroaki Ishiura (#39 Lexus Team Sard) and near the end of the session by the #100 Honda of Kogure.

GT300 was close, although only six cars were within a second of the ultimate leader, Hiranaka in the #11 Gainer Mercedes.

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The inter-marque fight in that class was typified by seeing the #86 JLOC Lamborghini (Koji Yamanishi / Shinya Hosokawa) the early leader, followed by the #22 RQ Mercedes (Hisashi Wada / Masaki Jyonai) and the aging but still quick #33 Hankook Porsche (Masami Kageyama / Tomonobu Fujii). Ultimately, the contending #16 Honda ended second fast in practice within GT300, Mutoh setting the time. Third up was the Imp Racing Mercedes, #52, of Takeshi Tsuchiya.

Another point of reference for many are the Gaijin (foreign) drivers in this series. They are as follows:

GT500
Ralph Firman, #8, Team Aguri, Honda
João Paulo de Oliveira, #12, Team Impul, Nissan
Frederic Makowiecki, #18, Weider Racing, Honda
Andre Couto, #19, Bandoh Racing, Lexus
Ronnie Quintarelli, #23, Nismo, Nissan
Michael Krumm, #24, Kondo Racing, Nissan
James Rossiter, #36, Team Tom’s, Lexus
Andrea Calderari, #37, Team Tom’s, Lexus
GT300
Bjorn Wirdheim, #11, Gainer, Mercedes
Richard Lyons, #21, Hitotsuyama, Audi
Igor Sushko, #30, APR, Nissan

The qualifying procedure is as follows. Each nominates a driver for each of the two sessions. The first drivers set out for a 15 minute session for GT500, then 15 for GT300. The top eight in GT500 and the top 13 in GT300 then matriculate to a 12 minute session, again unique for each class. The second nominated driver takes to the track during this period and their times set the grid at the front of the respective class, regardless of whether times during the session were quicker or not. Thus the second nominated driver for the slower cohort in each class does not take part in qualifying.

The initial GT300 period saw more changes in position than one sees in the flashing lights and slot machines at a Japanese pachinko parlor. First out of the box was Yuki Iwasaki (#30 Apr Nissan) with Naoki Yokomizo (#0 Taisan Porsche) and Manabu Orido (#88 JLOC Lamborghini) on his tail. Yokomizo moved to the top spot a lap later, with Kazuho Takahashi (#2 Tokai Dream McLaren) putting in a quick one but then fading. Soon Katsumasa Chiyo mustered a good effort to put the #48 Dijon Racing Nissan at the front. Kazuki Hoshino (#3 NDDP Racing Nissan) briefly held top spot before Yuki Nakayama put the #16 Honda on the provisional pole, followed by Bjorn Wirdheim (#11 Gainer Mercedes), Tetsuya Yamano (#61 R & D Sport Subaru), and Tetsuya Tanaka (#10 Gainer Mercedes). There was a bit of drama at the start when the entire rear cowling gave way on the #55 Team Aguri Honda of Takashi Kobayashi. It landed dead center on the circuit and the session was halted to retrieve it.

The overall GT500 period was only slightly more sedate. Yuhi Sekiguchi (#1 Mola Nissan) held the lead for most of the opening minutes with Yuji Kunimoto (#6 Le Mans Lexus), Ralph Firman (#8 Aguri Honda), and João de Oliveira (#12 Impul Nissan) a respective distance behind. Takashi Kogure (#100 Kunimitsu Honda) was the first to make a move in the later stages, placing ahead of the lead quartet. Kohei Hirate (#38 Cerumo Lexus) briefly held sway, with Juichi Wakisaka (#39 Sard Lexus) going quicker each lap but not moving up more than a spot or two. In the end, the #23 Nismo GT-R Masataka Yanagida reeled off a quick one as the flag fell to set the top eight.

Heading into the final GT300 session here were the graduates and the nominated drivers for the run to the class pole:

Number/team*/car/driver
16 Mugen Honda Hideki Mutoh
11 Gainer Mercedes Katsuyuke Hiranaki
61 R&D Sport Subaru Kota Sasaki
10 Gainer Mercedes Masayuki Ueda
3 NDDP Nissan Daiki Sasaki
48 Dijon Nissan Hiroshi Takamori
88 JLOC Lamborghini Takayuki Aoki
87 JLOC Lamborghini Hideki Yamauchi
0 Taisan Porsche Kyosuke Mineo
4 GSR BMW Nobuteru Taniguchi
62 Leon Racing Mercedes Haruki Kurosawa
33 Hankook Porsche Masami Kageyama
2 Tokai Dream McLaren Kazuho Takahashi

(*A note about team names; Super GT teams come with a bewildering array of sponsor names associated with the car. For purposes of continuity we’re sticking with the long term proper names of the entrants, which conforms with their appearances across several years.)

The 12-minute GT300 final session left enough time for two or three good flyers before the decision was made. By the way, the tire rules are as follows: cars making it into Q2 may start the race on either the set used in Q1 or Q2, while those not advancing must of course start with the Q1 rubber.

In GT300 four cars regular swapped around fast sectors for a lap or two. It then settled into Kota Sasaki over Hiraniki over Mutoh (his Honda fastest in Q1), and an ever quicker Daiki Sasaki.

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From a marques perspective the GT300 contest ended with Subaru over Mercedes, Honda, and Nissan. With GT300, i.e., the back half of the overall grid, taken care of, it was time for the same resolution in GT500. The octet for their second session included:

Number/team/car/driver
23 Nismo Nissan Ronnie Quintarelli
100 Team Kunimitsu Honda Takuya Izawa
38 Team Cerumo Lexus Yuji Tachikawa
39 Team Sard Lexus Hiroaki Ishiura
6 Team Le Mans Lexus Kazuya Oshima
12 Team Impul Nissan Tsugio Matsuda
17 Real Racing Honda Koudai Tsukakoshi
37 Team Tom’s Lexus Andrea Calderari

Matsuda was the early star in the all-important GT500 pole session. Coming from the back, Calderari put in a time good enough for second spot. Soon Ishiura’s Lexus was a quick top runner and then Tsukakoshi vaulted to third. Izawa was next to register a fast time, then Tsukakoshi responded, Quintarelli rose to third, while Oshima held back. With the checkered flag in sight the Lexus driver left the best for last, leaving Team Le Mans atop Motegi.

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Going into the Sunday race, here was the grid:

Postion/class/time/#/team/car/starting driver/2nd driver
1 GT500 1:41.367 6 Le Mans Lexus Kazuya Oshima Yuji Kunimoto
2 GT500 1:41.490 17 Real Honda Toshihiro Kaneishi Koudai Tsukakoshi
3 GT500 1:41.514 23 Nismo Nissan Ronnie Quintarelli Masataka Yanagida
4 GT500 1:41.582 38 Cerumo Lexus Kohei Hirate Yuji Tachikawa
5 GT500 1:41.598 39 Sard Lexus Juichi Wakisaka Hiroaki Ishiura
6 GT500 1:42.144 100 Kunimitsu Honda Takuya Izawa Takashi Kogure
7 GT500 1:42.323 37 Tom’s Lexus Andrea Calderari Daisuke Ito
8 GT500 1:42.374 12 Impul Nissan Tsugio Matsuda João Paulo de Oliveira
9 GT500 1:42.364 1 Mola Nissan Satoshi Motoyama Yuhi Sekiguchi
10 GT500 1:42.399 18 Weider Honda Naoki Yamamoto Frederic Makowiecki
11 GT500 1:42.463 24 Kondo Nissan Hironobu Yasuda Michael Krumm
12 GT500 1:42.588 19 Bandoh Lexus Seiji Ara Andre Couto
13 GT500 1:42.564 36 Tom’s Lexus James Rossiter Kazuki Nakajima
14 GT500 1:42.679 8 Aguri Honda Kosuke Matsuura Ralph Firman
15 GT500 1:43.547 32 Nakajima Honda Daisuke Nakajima Ryo Michigami
16 GT300 1:48.264 61 R&D Subaru Tetsuya Yamano Kota Sasaki
17 GT300 1:48.354 11 Gainer Mercedes Bjorn Wirdheim Katsuyuki Hiranaka
18 GT300 1:48.389 16 Mugen Honda Hideki Mutoh Yuhki Nakayama
19 GT300 1:48.900 3 NDDP Nissan Kazuki Hoshino Daiki Sasaki
20 GT300 1:48.970 62 Leon Mercedes Haruki Kurosawa Tsubasa Kurosawa
21 GT300 1:49.241 88 JLOC Lamborghini Takayuki Aoki Manabu Orido
22 GT300 1:49.518 4 GSR Porsche Tatsuya Kataoka Nobuteru Taniguchi
23 GT300 1:49.551 87 JLOC Lamborghini Hideki Yamauchi Hiroki Yoshimoto
24 GT300 1:49.600 33 Hankook Porsche Tomonobu Fujii Masami Kageyama
25 GT300 1:49.789 0 Taisan Porsche Naoki Yokomizo Kyosuke Mineo
26 GT300 1:50.240 10 Gainer Mercedes Tetsuya Tanaka Masayuki Ueda
27 GT300 1:52.238 2 Tokai Dream McLaren Hiroki Katoh Kazuho Takahashi
28 GT300 1:52.276 48 Dijon Nissan Katsumasa Chiyo Hiroshi Takamori
29 GT300 1:50.063 31 Apr Toyota Koki Saga Morio Nitta
30 GT300 1:50.162 21 Hitotsuyama Audi Akihiro Tsuzuki Richard Lyons
31 GT300 1:50.420 30 Apr Nissan Igor Sushko Yuki Iwasaki
32 GT300 1:50.400 50 Arnage Aston Martin Hideto Yasuoka Masaki Kano
33 GT300 1:50.446 86 JLOC Lamborghini Shiny Hosokawa Koji Yamanishi
34 GT300 1:50.544 22 RQs Mercedes Hisashi Wada Masaki Jyonai
35 GT300 1:50.632 52 Imp Racing Mercedes Hironori Takeuchi Takeshi Tsuchiya
36 GT300 1:51.337 5 Mach Nissan Junichiro Yamashita Tetsuji Tamanaka
37 GT300 1:51.707 9 Direction Porsche Shogo Mitsuyama Yu Yokomaku
38 GT300 no time 55 Aguri Honda Shinichi Takagi Takashi Kobayashi

The 30-minute morning warm-up went without a hitch despite some moderately foggy conditions. Popular star Seiji Ara pedalled the #19 Bandoh Lexus to a 1:43.7 for the fast time of the “open” period. There is an additional 15 minutes tacked on during which the touring buses circulate with the grand touring racers. In addition to kids waving and clicking cameras, several of the coaches come complete with tour guides on microphones extolling the scenery and the cars whizzing past. Despite behemoth chicanes managing no more than 60 km/h and a bit of lingering fog, the Super GT cars still impressed the tourists by putting in laps only a second or two slower than before. This could only happen in a country of very few lawyers.

The presence of the touring buses is yet another example of how this series, and Japanese sport in general caters to the fans. Turnout, as it is for all Super GT rounds, is massive.

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There are no ends of booths and attractions for families, grid girls to ogle at, pit walk sessions, and opportunities to meet and greet the drivers.

There was even an afternoon warm-up, a quick ten-minute period held about 90 minutes before the green flag.

The 53 lap race began under mostly overcast but non-threatening skies. Temperature was pleasantly in the low 20s. Kaneishi gave chase to Oshima going into Turn 1 but the Lexus imperviously turned in, cut a nice double apex and was gone. It would be the last that anyone in GT500 saw of Team Le Mans.

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Hirate made a good start and had the Cerumo Lexus up to second by Lap 4. Rossiter also worked forward, clawing up a couple of rungs. The front of the GT300 field circulated in near perfect grid order among the front-runners although the usually backmarking Porsche of Shogo Mitsuyama made one of the best starts of all, vaulting into the class’s top 10.

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A short time later Mutoh was able to pass Wirdheim, Mugen Honda over Gainer Mercedes in GT300. Up in the overall standings there was a good tussle between Takuya Izawa and Tsugio Matsuda for fifth, the #100 Honda and #12 Honda trading paint going through the “First Under Bridge”.

There was trouble as the GT500 cars first encountered the slower class. Seiji Ara tapped the Aston Martin of Hideto Yasuoka. The Arnage Vantage crawled back around but after another exploratory lap retired while the #19 Bandoh Lexus was slapped with a drive-through.

Both of the class leaders settled in with about four seconds over their nearest adversaries. Good moves were being made by one of the Lamborghinis, the #88 Gallardo of Takayuki Aoki back to fifth in class after a poor start. Another car in recovery mode with the #18 Weider Honda, Naoki Yamamoto being another who fell back in the early scramble. Both classes featured excellent clashes for second place. Hirate’s Lexus and the Real Racing Honda of Toshihiro Kaneishi locked horns in GT500 while Tetsuya Yamano’s Subaru threatened Mutoh in the production class. The GT300 situation reversed once before Mutoh took back second place and started to pull away.

Yamano then began to fade, losing third and fourth place to Aoki’s Lambo and the #62 Mercedes of Haruki Kurosawa, respectively. There were more lapping shenanigans when James Rossiter’s Lexus tapped the Prius of Koki Saga into a spin near the problematic first viaduct.

This was going to be a one-stop race and heading past the one-third mark came the opening of a realistic period to see the GT500 cars call. It was actually two slower GT300 cars that came in first, the clearly struggling Prius and the lone Audi. Both managed the rest of the contest with no issues but were badly out of the running. Andrea Calderari was the first to make a routine call, handing the Team Tom’s Lexus over to Daisuke Ito. Kaneishi was the next in, relieved by Koudai Tsukakoshi in the #17 Honda.

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Next it was Juichi Wakisaka to Hiroaki Ishiura in the Team Cerumo Lexus. This left the temporary order as Oshima (yawningly) ahead of Hirate and the works Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli. The Nismo entry and the Weider Honda would soon collide at, where else, the bridge, causing the #23 car to lose several spots.

Izawa was one of the later GT500 cars to pit, which had allowed the #100 Honda to drift up the standings before it was handed over to Takashi Kogure. By now some of the GT300 cars had begun to make their stops, the #16 Mugen Honda (Yuhki Nakayama taking over) and the #61 Subaru (Kota Sasaki in) led the calls in that class. Still, Oshima kept circulating in the overall lead, amassing a gigantic margin.

Finally, on lap 23 Oshima stopped and Yuji Kunimoto re-emerged with still more than a full straightaway lead on the rest of the field. While most of the lower ranked GT300 cars had stopped the leaders were still circulating with Wirdheim’s Mercedes ahead of Aoki’s Gallardo and the Leon Racing Mercedes.

The Team Impul Nissan of João Paolo de Oliveira and Fred Makowiecki’s Weider Honda performed a foreigner tango at guess where. Both cars continued with the #18 Honda losing the least time.

The GT300 leading #11 Mercedes stopped on lap 34, Katsuyuki Hiranaka stepping aboard. This allowed the one of the last non-stoppers in the class, the #88 Lamborghini to take the lead. At the halfway mark there were good fights for second in GT500 and third in GT300. The GT500 battle was between Tachikawa’s Lexus and Tsukakoshi’s Honda, while in GT300 it was a close matter between the two Gainer Mercedes in GT300. This would become the contest for second for the lead class when the #88 car finally stopped for Manabu Orido to take over and Hiroki Yoshimoto relieved Hideki Yamauchi in #87. Here were the standings after 27 laps:

GT500 and overall:
#6, Kunimoto, Lexus
#38, Tachikawa, Lexus, -21 seconds
#17, Tsukakoshi, Honda, -0.4 seconds
#39, Hiroaki Ishiura, Lexus, -4 seconds
GT300:
#88, Aoki, Lamborghini
#87, Yamauchi, Lamborghini, -3 seconds
#11, Hiranaka, Mercedes, – 7 seconds
#10, Masayuki Ueda, Mercedes, -0.1 seconds

The two Lamborghinis stopped on laps 29 and 30, Yamauchi enjoying one lap in the class lead. This left Hiranaka’s Mercedes in first while his teammate had been passed by both the #48 Dijon Racing Nissan (another one to stop late) and the #2 McLaren. Kota Sasaki’s Subaru was on a recovery drive and grabbed fourth in class a short time later. Once the GT300 stops were all done it was clear that the #11 Gainer Mercedes was moving into an insurmountable lead.

It was status quo in the overall situation apart from the #39 Team Sard Lexus of Hiroaki Ishiura taking third place. However, he was unable to pull away and was later reeled in by Real racer Tsukakoshi. At two-thirds distance it was Team Le Mans over Team Cerumo and then the Weider Lexus. Second and third would swap a few laps later. While that did much for pride, a runner-up spot for the #17 Real Racing Honda with the Cerumo and Sard Lexus pair right behind would not be enough to alter the championship standings.

It was not uncommon to see cars doing a bit of “shouldering” their competition down the long front straight but at the start of lap 39 it became a bit much. Ralph Firman muscled in on the #19 Lexus of Andre Couto. Rather than being forced into the wall the Macau driver tapped the orange Lexus into a mighty spin, slamming its right rear heavily into the concrete wall. Firman’s Honda came to a rest well off the racing line, near where the road course has access to the oval, while Couto kept going, seemingly undamaged. A lap later Tsukakoshi ran over some debris and lost part of the bodywork on the #17 Lexus. While it briefly slowed, the damage was not enough to cost second place.

With 10 laps to go the Le Mans Lexus kept up its 21 second lead, while the #17 Honda struggled to keep a six second gap to the Team Cerumo Lexus. Tachikawa had still not entirely sewn up the championship as he was third on the road and less than a second behind was the #39 Team Sard SC430. The bigger threat was next and equally close; the second in the standings #36 Tom’s Lexus of Kazuki Nakajima.

There was also a close dice for sixth overall between the #12 Nissan of de Oliveira and Daisuke Ito in the #37 Tom’s Lexus. The Lexus would take the spot when de Oliveira tangled with a GT300 car.

In GT300, Nakayama’s #16 Honda was in a distant second place to the #11 Mercedes, but this was more than enough to secure the class title. The last battle in this class was from sixth place with the #62 Leon Racing Mercedes of Tsubasa Kurosawa displacing the #87 JLOC entry in the closing laps.

The fading light of the autumn afternoon made for nice views of exhaust flames as the positions began to settle for the finish. There was on last bit of drama when the #12 Nissan (again) and the #1 Team Mola Nissan collided at, somewhere different for a change—the end of the long downhill straight. Yuhi Sekiguchi parked the GTR while de Oliveira soldiered on. Thus ended the last Super GT race of the 2005-2013 era.

Super_GT_Motegi_2013_0015Race winners

Super_GT_Motegi_2013_0016GT500 champions

Super_GT_Motegi_2013_0011GT300 champions

Here were the results with the championship winners in bold:

Finish/class/class fin/#/team/car/drivers/gap
1 GT500 1 6 Le Mans Lexus Kazuya Oshima Yuji Kunimoto 53 laps
2 GT500 2 17 Real Honda Toshihiro Kaneishi Koudai Tsukakoshi -12s
3 GT500 3 38 Cerumo Lexus Kohei Hirate Yuji Tachikawa -21s
4 GT500 4 39 Sard Lexus Juichi Wakisaka Hiroaki Ishiura -1s
5 GT500 5 36 Tom’s Lexus James Rossiter Kazuki Nakajima -0.1s
6 GT500 6 37 Tom’s Lexus Andrea Calderari Daisuke Ito -10s
7 GT500 7 18 Weider Honda Naoki Yamamoto Frederic Makowiecki -0.7s
8 GT500 8 23 Nismo Nissan Ronnie Quintarelli Masataka Yanagida -3s
9 GT500 9 24 Kondo Nissan Hironobu Yasuda Michael Krumm -0.7
10 GT500 10 19 Bandoh Lexus Seiji Ara Andre Couto -11s
11 GT500 11 32 Nakajima Honda Daisuke Nakajima Ryo Michigami -6s
12 GT500 12 100 Kunimitsu Honda Takuya Izawa Takashi Kogure -1s
13 GT500 13 12 Impul Nissan Tsugio Matsuda João Paulo de Oliveira 52 laps
14 GT300 1 11 Gainer Mercedes Bjorn Wirdheim Katsuyuki Hiranaka 51 laps
15 GT300 2 16 Mugen Honda Hideki Mutoh Yuhki Nakayama 50 laps
16 GT300 3 61 R&D Subaru Tetsuya Yamano Kota Sasaki -0.5s
17 GT300 4 4 GSR Porsche Tatsuya Kataoka Nobuteru Taniguchi -0.7s
18 GT300 5 88 JLOC Lamborghini Takayuki Aoki Manabu Orido -14s
19 GT300 6 62 Leon Mercedes Haruki Kurosawa Tsubasa Kurosawa -2s
20 GT300 7 52 Imp Racing Mercedes Hironori Takeuchi Takeshi Tsuchiya -1s
21 GT300 8 87 JLOC Lamborghini Hideki Yamauchi Hiroki Yoshimoto -9s
22 GT300 9 3 NDDP Nissan Kazuki Hoshino Daiki Sasaki -0.3s
23 GT300 10 0 Taisan Porsche Naoki Yokomizo Kyosuke Mineo -8s
24 GT300 11 33 Hankook Porsche Tomonobu Fujii Masami Kageyama -0.9s
25 GT300 12 10 Gainer Mercedes Tetsuya Tanaka Masayuki Ueda -2s
26 GT300 13 86 JLOC Lamborghini Shiny Hosokawa Koji Yamanishi -0.3s
27 GT300 14 30 Apr Nissan Igor Sushko Yuki Iwasaki -21s
28 GT300 15 55 Aguri Honda Shinichi Takagi Takashi Kobayashi -0.2s
29 GT300 16 22 RQs Mercedes Hisashi Wada Masaki Jyonai -16s
30 GT300 17 2 Tokai Dream McLaren Hiroki Katoh Kazuho Takahashi -26s
31 GT300 18 48 Dijon Nissan Katsumasa Chiyo Hiroshi Takamori 49 laps
32 GT300 19 9 Direction Porsche Shogo Mitsuyama Yu Yokomaku -8s
33 GT300 20 31 Apr Toyota Koki Saga Morio Nitta -94s
34 GT300 21 21 Hitotsuyama Audi Akihiro Tsuzuki Richard Lyons 48 laps
35 GT300 22 5 Mach Nissan Junichiro Yamashita Tetsuji Tamanaka -30s
DNF GT500 DNF 1 Mola Nissan Satoshi Motoyama Yuhi Sekiguchi 47 laps
DNF GT500 DNF 8 Aguri Honda Kosuke Matsuura Ralph Firman 38 laps
DNF GT300 DNF 50 Arnage Aston Martin Hideto Yasuoka Masaki Kano 6 laps

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You know that you are in earthquake country when foreign news reports tell of a 5.0 a short distance away and you don’t even notice anything. There have been probably been three of these since I’ve been here. Living on the other side of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, we’re used to it. Sayonara until the Brave New World of all-spec 500 comes next year.

Janos Wimpffen

Images – www.supergt.net