The 6th round of the 2014 SUPER GT series was the championship’s most famous race. The 43rd running of the Suzuka 1000km (though not always at that distance).
The championship’s longest race came at a very interesting point of the season. Round 5 at Fuji had seen the first win of the season for Honda, meaning that all three GT 500 chassis now had at least one win under their belt. In fact after a very disappointing start to the season Honda were really turning the tides. Fuji had seen 3 Hondas in the top 4 at the chequered flag.
Come qualifying though the PETRONAS Lexus struck first blow taking pole position with a blistering lap by Toyota factory driver Kazuki Nakajima. The top 3 though had one of each manufacturer represented which certainly hinted at a very close race.
Starting the race on Pole James Rossiter took his PETRONAS Lexus straight into the lead. There wasn’t a long wait for the first incident though as last year’s champion Koudai Hirate in his Lexus came together with the #100 NSX sending the Honda spinning to the back of the field.
As the first few laps ticked by Rossiter had the early pace pulling out a few seconds over the rest of the field. Rossiter’s progress was substantially stalled by the GT 300 traffic. The #17 Honda of Hiroki Tsukakoshi was making much lighter work of the traffic and by lap 10 the Honda had a better run through 130R and challenged Rossiter into the final chicane. When they came out the other end the Honda had the lead.
As the leaders were battling away a number of incidents were taking place behind, ever diminishing the chasing pack. Punctures for the #19 Lexus and #24 Nissan dropped both cars way down the pack. But it was race over for Satoshi Motoyama in the #46 Nissan as he first slowed, then pitted but as he exited the pits the car caught fire.
Leading into the first pit stops Tsukakoshi pulled out a solid lead. Rossiter pitted earlier than the Honda and in stepped Nakajima. The Japanese hot shoe immediately set about chasing down the leader. When Tsukakoshi finally did pit to hand over to Kaneishi, Nakajima had bridged the gap and coming in to the ‘S’ bend he pounced, taking back the lead in the process.
There was a slight worry for the new leader at the next stop when they had issues with the seat belts getting Rossiter back in the car. But just as it looked like the race was back on for the win the 2nd placed Honda in the hands of Tsukakoshi left the track at 130R and hit the tires. He got going again but there was no repairing the damage and it was game over, Rossiter left in the car for the final stint in preference to a clearly nonplussed Nakajima
Another important incident for the championship was the coming together of the #32 NSX and former championship leader Joao Paulo de Oliveira in the #12 CALSONIC Nissan. It was judged Oliveira was to blame and as well as the hold-up of the incident he received a penalty, dropping him down the order.
So as they crossed the line Rossiter and Nakajima took the win with only 2nd placed MOTUL Nissan GT-R on the lead lap, the two leading cars employing entirely different strategies with the Lexus opting for full fat pace, thus making an additional stop for fuel and the Nissan driving the more conservative race – Happily for racing purists pace won out!
Rounding out the top 3 were Naoki Yamamoto and Frederic Makowiecki in their #8 NSX.
1 36 PETRONAS TOM’S RC F LEXUS RC F Kazuki Nakajima, James Rossiter 173 laps 5:37’27.911
2 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R NISSAN GT-R Tsugio Matsuda, Ronnie Quintarelli +50.549
3 18 Weider Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT Naoki Yamamoto, Frederic Makowiecki 172 laps
4 8 ARTA NSX CONCEPT-GT Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT Vitantonio Liuzzi, Kosuke Matsuura 172 laps
5 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F LEXUS RC F Kazuya Oshima, Yuji Kunimoto 171 laps
6 100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT Takashi Kogure, Hideki Mutoh 171 laps
7 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F LEXUS RC F Daisuke Ito, Andrea Caldarelli 171 laps
8 1 ZENT CERUMO RC F LEXUS RC F Yuji Tachikawa, Kohei Hirate 170 laps
9 24 D’station ADVAN GT-R NISSAN GT-R Michael Krumm.Daiki Sasaki 168 laps
10 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R NISSAN GT-R Hironobu Yasuda, J.P.L.De Oliveira 165 laps
11 39DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F LEXUS RC F Hiroaki Ishiura, Oliver Jarvis 146 laps
12 32 Epson NSX CONCEPT-GT Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT Daisuke Nakajima, Bertrand Baguette 126 laps
19 WedsSport ADVAN RC F LEXUS RC F Juichi Wakisaka, Yuhi Sekiguchi 100 laps
17 KEIHIN NSX CONCEPT-GT Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT Koudai Tsukakoshi, Toshihiro Kaneishi 88 laps
46 S Road MOLA GT-R NISSAN GT-R Satoshi Motoyama, Masataka Yanagida 14 laps
Qualifying had seen the Japanese Marques dominate again. 1st and 2nd were the two Honda CR-Zs 3rd the Toyota Prius and 4th the Subaru BRZ.
The leaders got away well at the start and remained in position until challenged by the #60 TWS LM corsa BMW Z4 in the mid part of the first stint. The BMW soon popped up into 2nd and chased down the leading CR-Z. The battle between the two leaders lasted 120 laps with them very rarely more than 10 seconds apart.
The battle looked destined to go to the wire until the CR-Z suddenly slowed leaving the BMW in a commanding lead. Indeed it was a lead it never lost, romping home a full minute ahead of #31 Prius and 3rd was the #7 Steiff BMW Z4 in the hands of Augusto Farfus.
Other potential front runners hit trouble too with the B-MAX Nissan running well up until a rear blow out whilst Wolfie Reip was at the wheel. The Belgian got the car back to the pits but the damage took almost an hour to fix.
The Subaru looked good at the start but soon faded, indeed the race looked like a case of the hybrids duking it put with the BMWs after the fastest Mercedes faded too.
So with the 1000km grind finished the grid are next off to Thailand and then the final round at Motegi for a couple of relative sprints. With both teams and drivers championships too close to call they are sure to be too good to miss. Especially with the recent addition of English language commentary.
1 60 TWS LM corsa BMW Z4 BMW Z4 GT3 Akira Iida, Hiroki Yoshimoto, Shinya Sato 160 laps 5:39’21.300
2 31 OGT Panasonic PRIUS TOYOTA PRIUS Morio Nitta, Koki Saga, Yuichi Nakayama 159 laps
3 7 Studie BMW Z4 BMW Z4 GT3 Jorg Muller, Seiji Ara, Augusto Fares 159 laps
4 10 GAINER Rn-SPORTS SLS Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Masayuki Ueda, Hideki Yamauchi 158 laps
5 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU Z4 BMW Z4 GT3 Nobuteru Taniguchi, Tatsuya Kataoka 158 laps
6 33 PUMA KRH PORSCHE PORSCHE 911 GT3 R Akihiro Tsuzuki, Tim Bergmeister, Jorg Bergmeister 158 laps
7 9 Otonokizaka High NAC PORSCHE with DR PORSCHE 911 GT3 R Takuya Shirasaka,Andre Couto, Taiyo Iida 158 laps
8 0 MUGEN CR-Z GT Honda CR-Z Yuhki Nakayama, Tomoki Nojiri, Ryo Michigami 158 laps
9 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT SUBARU BRZ GT300 Kota Sasaki, Takuto Iguchi 158 laps
10 11 GAINER DIXCEL SLS Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Katsuyuki Hiranaka, Bjorn Wirdheim 157 laps
11 30 IWASAKI apr GT-R NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Yuki Iwasaki, Masami Kageyama, Tohjiro Azuma 157 laps
12 2 SYNTIUM APPLE MP4-12C McLaren MP4-12C GT3 Kazuho Takahashi, Hiroki Katoh, Hiroshi Hamaguchi 157 laps
13 88 MANEPA LAMBORGHINI GT3 Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 Manabu Orido, Takayuki Aoki, Kazuki Hiramine 157 laps
14 48 Snap-on DIJON Racing GT-R NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Hiroshi Takamori, Masaki Tanaka, Ryuichiro Tomita 156 laps
15 22 GREENTEC SLS AMG GT3 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Hisashi Wada, Masaki Jyonai 153 laps
16 55 ARTA CR-Z GT Honda CR-Z Shinichi Takagi,Takashi Kobayashi 152 laps
17 86 CrystalCroco LAMBORGHINI GT3 Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 Shinya Hosokawa, Koji Yamanishi 152 laps
18 5 MACH SYAKEN with TRANSFORMERS 30th NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Tetsuji Tamanaka, Naoya Yamano, Kazuya Tsuruta 133 laps
19 3 B-MAX NDDP GT-R NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Kazuki Hoshino, Lucas Ordonez, Wolfgang Reip 131 laps
20 360 OKINAWA MSA-RUN UP GT-R NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Atsushi Tanaka, Hiroki Yoshida Ryuju Fuijta 126 laps
65 LEON SLS Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Haruki Kurosawa, Tsubasa Kurosawa 108 laps
67 STP TAISAN GAIA POWER GT-R NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 Naoki Yokomizo,Shogo Mitsuyama,Kyosuke Mineo 95 laps
50 WAKO’S Exe Aston Martin Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 Masaki Kano, Hideto Yasuoka, N.Indra-Payoong 85 laps
21 Audi R8-LMS ultra Richard Lyons,Tomonobu Fujii, Christopher Haase 51 laps