A hot start was promised to the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, with record-high temperatures during the 47th running of Suzuka’s summer endurance race expected throughout the day. The first hour of the race certainly has not disappointed.
Nick Foster, the pole position winner in the yellow #28 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, initially failed to get away on the formation lap, but eventually took his place at the front of the field as a two-by-two rolling start signaled the beginning of the new era of Suzuka’s summer endurance race.
One car that did not take the start as planned was the #2 Cars Tokai Dream28 Lotus Evora MC (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh/Hiroshi Hamaguchi), which suffered moderate front-end damage during an incident in the morning warm-up, and would eventually start the race 28 laps down after an hour of repairs in their garage.
Foster lead away from the first lap and quickly began to break away from the rest of the field, led by Maro Engel in the #888 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing GT3, and Miguel Molina in the red #27 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari.
But the young man on the move was Luca Stolz in the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Stolz got a slow getaway and dropped to 7th on the opening lap, but was quickly making moves to get back to the front.
Stolz made a brave side-by-side pass on Alessio Picariello in the #21 Audi Team Hitotsuyama R8 for 6th, then passed Edoardo Liberati’s #23 KCMG Nissan GT-R for 4th by sending it up the inside at the entry to 130R, and the young German wasn’t done, as he slashed his way past the #27 Ferrari of Molina for what was now 2nd place after Engel pitted the #888 Mercedes at the 45 minute mark.
Foster led the first 28 laps, but the #28 Ferrari team was pinged for a Drivethrough Penalty for having a member of team personnel on the grid after the 15 Second board was displayed.
That would elevate Luca Stolz to the lead of the race as the race timer officially ticked over to 1 hour elapsed, but after he makes his first stop, Tristan Vautier in the #888 GruppeM Mercedes will take the lead of the race, ahead of the #27 Ferrari of Matt Griffin and the #75 Mercedes of Mikaël Grenier.
There have been other great battles for position further down the field, including a brilliant scrap between the #11 Gainer Nissan GT-R of Hironobu Yasuda, and the #911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R of two-time Le Mans winner Romain Dumas. Yasuda’s GT-R has had the top speed advantage, but Dumas’ Porsche has been quicker through the curves.
Only two minor incidents in the first hour to report: The #34 Modulo Drago Corse Honda NSX GT3 of Hiroki Otsu tangled with the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650 GT3 of Ben Barnicoat at the Triangle chicane, for which the #34 Honda was given a Drivethrough Penalty for avoidable contact. The #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Nick Leventis also spun off in the S-Curves on Lap 23.
The next update will come after 5 hours completed in the Suzuka 10 Hours.