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Fuji 300km Preview: Lexus Going For Five In A Row

Can the VivaC Toyota hold onto its GT300 points lead?

The second leg of the Autobacs Super GT Series’ traditional Summer Series takes the circuit back to Fuji Speedway this weekend, back to the foot of Mount Fuji for the fifth round of the 2017 season. This time, it’s a 300 kilometer race, held just three months after the Fuji 500km.

When the series last visited Fuji Speedway on May 4, Lexus brought home both winners’ trophies for Toyota Motor Corporation, as Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo took the win in GT500, while in GT300, LM Corsa captured the first Super GT win for the updated Lexus RC F GT3.

This weekend, there will be more than just manufacturer pride on the line for Lexus and Toyota at their home circuit at Fuji, but a piece of Super GT history as well.

A GT500 class win at Fuji would give Lexus their fifth consecutive win to open the season, breaking Nissan’s record from last season. It would also be their sixth straight GT500 race victory in total, dating back to the end of the 2016 season – a feat which would match the record set by Honda during the 1998 and 1999 seasons.

However, just past the halfway point in the championship, for any of the Lexus LC500s to win a fifth consecutive race in 2017 will be a very, very difficult task. The top five Lexus teams in the championships are all encumbered by heavy amounts of Success Ballast, including fuel-flow restrictors that will take away crucial horsepower from them at this high-speed circuit.

That group includes the likes of GT500 championship leaders Kazuya Oshima & Andrea Caldarelli in the #6 Wako’s 4CR LC500, it includes the most recent winners Heikki Kovalainen & Kohei Hirate in the #1 Denso Kobelco SARD LC500, and it includes eight-time Fuji winner Yuji Tachikawa and co-driver Hiroaki Ishiura, in the #38 ZENT Cerumo LC500 that won the Fuji 500km in a dominant performance this May.

Nissan, who’ve won this Fuji 300km the last two years running, will have a better understanding of what their recent engine updates from the last round at Sugo will do for their fleet of four GT-Rs here at Fuji.

The #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Jann Mardenborough) won this race in 2016, and the #24 Forum Engineering Advan GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/João Paulo de Oliveira) won in 2015. It’s still the #23 Motul Autech NISMO GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) who leads Nissan’s title charge through consistent results, along with the #46 S Road Craftsports GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Katsumasa Chiyo) which came within two corners of winning at Sugo.

A GT500 class win at Fuji would give Lexus their fifth consecutive win to open the season, breaking Nissan’s record from last season

For Honda, Fuji hasn’t been much of a happy hunting ground for the NSX-GT, but after the last two rounds, they’re confident they can end their long winless drought – they just need their luck to change.

At Autopolis and Sugo, the #100 Raybrig NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Takuya Izawa) has shown amazing pace, but haven’t had the results to show for it after losing out on Safety Car interventions. They finished this race on the podium a year ago, alongside the #17 Keihin NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Takashi Kogure) who were in second. Together, these two cars stand the best chance of ending Honda’s frustrating winless run, dating back to September 2015.

Temperatures will be hotter than they were in May, and with the top seven teams within 18 points of the lead, the GT500 championship picture could be altered dramatically going into the Suzuka 1000km in three weeks.

GT300 championship leaders Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita have their work cut out for them to hold onto the lead in the standings coming out of this race. The #25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC was a non-scorer at the Fuji 500km, and with 82 kilos of ballast on board this time out, it’ll make their race a struggle at a circuit that could really favour the more powerful FIA GT3 cars over the JAF-GT & Mother Chassis cars.

Especially in a field with the #51 JMS P.MU LM Corsa RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama/Sho Tsuboi), which won at the Fuji 500km in a Lexus double victory – and the #60 Syntium LM Corsa RC F (Akira Iida/Hiroki Yoshimoto) could also be a contender for victory.

Mercedes-AMG have three cars in the top five of the standings, led by the #11 Gainer Tanax AMG (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Björn Wirdheim) which won at Sugo, and the #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka), ready to rebound after their star-struck Spa 24 Hours debut.

The #55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/Sean Walkinshaw) has won back-to-back Fuji 300kms, first in 2015 with the old Honda CR-Z, and again last year, edging out the #21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (Richard Lyons/Masataka Yanagida) by just a tenth of a second at the line. ARTA will look to rebound from a bitter DNF at Sugo, while Audi as a whole just wants to turn around a woeful start to 2017.

The #25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC was a non-scorer at the Fuji 500km, and with 82 kilos of ballast on board this time out, it’ll make their race a struggle

Don’t overlook the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3-Rs of D’station Racing and Gulf Racing, the #3 B-Max NDDP Nissan GT-R GT3 (Kazuki Hoshino/Mitsunori Takaboshi), the #61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi), or the #31 Toyota Prius apr GT (Koki Saga/Rintaro Kubo) – all cars which have performed well here in recent events.

And with all 30 cars on the grid, with the #117 EIcars Bentley Continental GT3 and the #22 R’Qs Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG returning from a one-round hiatus, there will be plenty of awesome machines in the mix in GT300 this weekend.

The 66-lap race goes green on the afternoon of August 6.

Images courtesy of Toyota and the GT Association