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Elation For GT500 Champions Team Kunimitsu, Heartache For TOM’s At Fuji

Hirakawa runs out of fuel on the last corner of the last lap, Yamamoto and Makino win the GT500 Championship!

In the single most incredible scene to end the 2020 Autobacs Super GT Series, the #100 Raybrig Honda NSX-GT of Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino have won the final round of the championship at Fuji Speedway, clinching the GT500 Drivers’ Championship, as the #37 KeePer TOM’s Toyota GR Supra of Ryo Hirakawa and Kenta Yamashita ran out of fuel exiting the final corner of the final lap!

Until that point, the KeePer Supra led most of the race. Yamashita held on during a furious sequence of opening laps to assert a strong race lead. Hirakawa took over for the second stint and maintained a lead as large as 15 seconds as the laps began to tick down.

With less than 10 laps to go, however, Yamamoto had closed down the gap to less than 10 seconds and continued to close in, lap after lap. On the last lap, it looked as if Hirakawa had stabilized a healthy margin to secure his second GT500 Drivers’ Championship.

But as Hirakawa exited the final corner towards the chequered flag, his blue, yellow, and white KeePer TOM’s Supra ran out of fuel, and Yamamoto took the lead in the final few hundred metres to score the win in, what I can confidently say, was the most incredible finish in the 26-year history of the Autobacs Super GT Series.

The win sends the iconic royal blue Raybrig NSX off in style, in what was already going to be an emotional final race for Team Kunimitsu’s long-time primary sponsor after a 25-year partnership. For Team Kunimitsu, and their legendary president Kunimitsu Takahashi, it’s their second set of GT500 Championships, having previously won in 2018 with Yamamoto and Jenson Button driving.

It is Yamamoto’s second GT500 Championship, and for 23-year-old Makino, who had the seemingly unenviable task of replacing the past F1 World Champion Button on his way into the team, it is his first GT500 Championship in only his second full season.

Makino was overcome with emotion as he collapsed into tears of joy on the pitwall. Hirakawa, on the other hand, collapsed in a heap of heartache as his car crawled to a stop after crossing the line in second. Instead of celebrating his second GT500 title, he is runner-up for the third straight season, in the most agonizing fashion, one that evokes cruel memories of the 1998 Wales Rally GB with Carlos Sainz Sr., or more recently, Le Mans 2016.

© GT Association (GTA)

In the GT300 Class, the #56 Realize Nissan Automobile Technical College GT-R GT3 of Kiyoto Fujinami and João Paulo de Oliveira scored Kondo Racing’s first Super GT championship in either category and the first championships for both drivers – a special occasion for Oliveira, who finally captures his first title after 15 years in Super GT across both classes.

And given the whirlwind of emotions of the past two weeks as team president Masahiko Kondo has been forced to take a leave of absence in the wake of a personal scandal, the team that he assembled has given them a triumph to be proud of.

They finished in second place to clinch the title, while the class victory went to the #52 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota GR Supra of Hiroki Yoshida and Kohta Kawaai, their second win of the season.