In what turned into a five-way scrap for the lead in the final minutes, the #24 Forum Engineering GT-R of Daiki Sasaki and Masataka Yanagida took a surprise win in Round 4 of the 2016 Super GT season at Sugo.
The winning margin in the damp conditions for the Nissan was just three tenths over the DENSO KOBLECO SARD Lexus of Keikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate, with the ZENT CERUMO Lexus third in the train.
Throughout the first half of the race, the Forum Engineering entry didn’t feature while Yanagida was driving, but a series of fast laps during the pit window catapulted the car into the lead from outside the top five. From then Sasaki would hold off the charge from Hirate in the DENSO Lexus until the end of the 81 lap race – which was red-flagged with just over six laps to go due an incident in the GT300 class.
In the opening laps, the WAKO’S Lexus of Andrea Calarelli held the lead from pole, but was pushed to the limits by the KEINHIN Honda NSX of Hiroaki Ishiura and had a spin after colliding with a GT300 Mercedes SLS on lap 6.
For the rest of the race the car would have to fight back through the pack from 12th, eventually finishing fourth after Kazuya Oshima pulled off some great moves in the second half of the race.
The KEINHIN NSX of Ishiura wouldn’t hold the lead for long though, after Ishiura in the ZENT CERUMO Lexus nudged the NSX into a spin, creating a Lexus 1-2-3 with ZENT leading the KeePer TOM’S car and Kovalainen in the DENSO RC F.
In what turned out to be a frantic run to the pit stops, it turned into a race between the DENSO and WedsSport RC Fs after both Kovalainen and Yuhi Sekiguchi both charged through the field. Both leading cars stayed out later than most of the GT500 runners, before returning to the race demoted to second and fifth respectively.
After the pit cycle had finished, it was the Forum Engineering GT-R that led, with the DENSO car – then driven by Kochi Hirate – running bumper-to-bumper for the lead. Through the immense traffic on the short and sweeping Sugo circuit, the pair slipped back into the hands of the ZENT CERUMO RC F of Yuji Tachikawa and the cars behind.
While the action was aggressive as they slalomed through the traffic for the final 15 laps, position changes were few and far between.
Finishing fourth behind the leading trip was the WAKO’S Lexus, ahead of the WedsSport RC F and KEIHIN NSX in fifth and sixth The top five finished just seven seconds apart.
In GT300, the VivaC Toyota 86 MC looked to take its first win after dominating the first half of the race with Takeshi Tsuchiya driving. But like GT500, the lead changed after the pit cycle, with the MANEPA Lamborghini taking the lead to start the second half, before slipping back to sixth in what turned out to be a race which was almost as close as the top class.
In the end, the #31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT entry of Koki Saga and Yuichi Nakayama took the win, ahead of the VivaC Toyota and R&D Sport Subaru BRZ. Fourth went to the GAINER Mercedes SLS of Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Bjorn Wirdheim, with the Jann Mardenborough-Kazuki Hoshino BMAX Nissan fifth.
The winning Prius was both quick, and very conscious through traffic throughout the race, winning it by seven seconds while the VivaC Toyota and R&D Subaru scrapped for second and third.
Next up on the Super GT calendar is Round 5 at Fuji Speedway. The 300km-race will run on the 7th of August.