The official results are in for the fourth round of the Super Taikyu Series powered by Hankook. The #290 Floral Uematsu First Garage McLaren 720S GT3 driven by Teruhiko Hamano, Keita Sawa, Shintaro Kawabata, and Yuji Ide has been declared the overall and ST-X class winner, after the #81 Daishin GTNET Nissan GT-R GT3 (Noboyuki Oyagi/Takayuki Aoki/Kiyoto Fujinami/Ryuichiro Oyagi) was disqualified from the provisional victory following post-race vehicle inspection for being under weight.
Sunday’s race was the five hour “TKU Super Taikyu in Autopolis”, which began at 11:00 JST. There were showers of rain throughout the morning before the race, and the track was wet to start. But the greater concern was the fog that started to roll in before the race, and continued to get denser once the green flag was waved. Just two laps of green flag racing before the Safety Car was introduced due to poor visibility. The race resumed on lap seven, before the Safety Car was brought out again after just one more lap. Eventually, the race was red flagged for over an hour due to the fog. But unlike the Super Formula race at Autopolis held earlier this year, the race eventually resumed with three hours and 15 minutes left to run, allowing the field of 49 cars to complete a full race as the weather drastically improved throughout the afternoon.
Before the stoppage, the #290 Floral/ABSSA McLaren took the lead as Kawabata overtook the pole-winning #16 Porsche Center Okazaki 911 GT3-R of Hiroaki Nagai on lap two. They continued to lead following the red flag period, until pitting on lap 16. The #81 Daishin GT-R had made its first pit stop during the Safety Car period immediately following the red flag, which set up Takayuki Aoki to lead the race when the Floral McLaren made its first stop, ahead of the #777 D’station Racing Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3, now being driven by Tsubasa Kondo after Tomonobu Fujii started the race.
The Daishin GT-R steadily pulled out a gap over the D’station Vantage, owing to the 70 kilogrammes of success weight on the Aston Martin compared to just 30kg on the Nissan. With Aoki leading Kondo by 20 seconds, both cars pitted on lap 58, putting the Floral McLaren of Sawa back into the lead briefly, before they made their next pit stop on lap 65. Because of the red flag, the obligatory minimum drive time for the teams’ gentleman drivers was lifted, allowing the Expert and Platinum grade drivers to take over to the finish. Fujinami took the lead in the Daishin GT-R, ahead of Fujii in the D’station Vantage, and Kawabata in the Floral McLaren.
In the last hour, the D’station Vantage made their final pit stop on lap 88, and their final driver change from Fujii back to Kondo. Two laps later, the Daishin GT-R pitted for a splash of fuel to get to the end, and Fujinami exited the pits in first place. The Floral McLaren of Kawabata, meanwhile, was content to run the final 90 minutes of the race on a single tank of fuel, jumping ahead of the D’station Vantage into second.
As they ran, the #81 Daishin GT-R was 14.771 seconds ahead of the #290 Floral McLaren, with Aoki and Fujinami combining to complete 112 laps. If the result had stood, it would have been GTNET Motor Sports’ second consecutive victory following their Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours win in May.
But during a second round of post-race vehicle inspection, the Daishin GT-R was disqualified for what was described as an “insufficient weight handicap” according to the official bulletin posted by the Super Taikyu Series.
The bright orange Nissan did run with the 30kg of Success Weight that was prescribed based on the previous results, but the disqualification was handed down because the weight had not been loaded into the car properly.
As a result, the #290 McLaren was declared the winner. The fuel level warning light was on on the last lap, but Shintaro Kawabata held on to take the win by just 2.353 seconds ahead of Kondo in the D’station Vantage! It’s McLaren’s first Super Taikyu victory, and the first win on Japanese soil for the 720S GT3. For Floral Racing with ABSSA Motorsport, who moved up to ST-X this year as the reigning ST-TCR Champions, it is their first premier class win.
As Fujii and Satoshi Hoshino head to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, D’station Racing still lead the ST-X Championship, now 11 points ahead of Floral Racing – while the zero score for GTNET Motor Sports has dropped them 35.5 points out of first place in the championship table.
The #9 MP Racing GT-R (Joe Shindo/Yusaku Shibata/Masami Kageyama/Keiichi Inoue) also ran a two-stop strategy to take a third place finish, ahead of the #31 apr Racing Lexus RC F GT3 (Hideki Nagai/Koki Saga/Kazuto Kotaka) in fourth. Meanwhile, the #16 PC Okazaki 911 GT3-R of Hiroaki Nagai, Yuta Kamimura, and Yuichi Nakayama finished four laps off the lead in fifth, after an early collision between the elder of the Nagai brothers and Kotaka sent the Porsche into the sponge barriers with damage.
There was no controversy in settling the other class winners, however.
ST-Z (GT4) honours went to the #47 D’station Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT4 of Tatsuya Hoshino, Manabu Orido, Takuro Shinohara, and Kenji Hama. But only the driving of Orido and Shinohara were needed en route to their first win of the season.
Yuga Furutani in the #111 Hiroshima Toyopet Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 took the lead before the stoppage, but the #47 D’station Vantage GT4 and the #20 SS/YZ with Studie Racing BMW M4 GT4 had positioned themselves for the class win: The #20 Studie M4 made its first pit stop and driver change, from Yuya Sakamoto to Seiji Ara, before the red flag. After the red flag, the #47 D’station Vantage pitted to switch to slick tyres.
The Studie M4 moved to the lead after pitting on lap 60, changing drivers from Ara to Tomohide Yamaguchi just before a Full Course Yellow was introduced to retrieve a stopped car. The D’station crew would have to wait until the FCY cleared to do their driver change from Orido to Shinohara, giving Yamaguchi a lead of just under 19 seconds after the D’station Vantage pitted on lap 62. Shinohara started his stint ablaze, however, and began chasing down Yamaguchi until he made the class-winning overtake on lap 77.
The #47 D’station Vantage GT4 completed 107 laps en route to finishing sixth overall, a minute and eight seconds ahead of the Studie M4, which finished second in class and eighth overall.
Splitting the top two in ST-Z was the ST-1 class winner, the #2 KTM Cars Japan X-Bow GTX of Taiyou Iida, Hiroki Katoh, Kazuho Takahashi, and Hiroki Yoshimoto, which finished seventh overall, and won the class by one lap ahead of the #38 muta Racing Toyota GR Supra (Sena Sakaguchi/Ryohei Sakaguchi).
Completing the ST-Z class podium was the #3 Endless Mercedes-AMG GT4 (Yudai Uchida/Hideki Yamauchi/Togo Suganami/Ryo Ogawa), in ninth overall, while the #500 5Zigen AMG GT4 (Ryuichiro Otsuka/Toshihiro Kaneishi/Jake Parsons/Yu Kanamaru) completed the overall top ten, finishing fourth in class.
With two races left, Endless Sports now has a five point lead in the ST-Z Championship over Team 5Zigen; SS/YZ with Studie Racing are a further six and a half points back, while D’station Racing’s victory brings them within 21.5 points of the lead. In ST-1, KTM Cars Japan now leads Tracy Sports (muta Racing) by seven points after winning from pole in class.
Finishing 12th overall was the ST-Q class #28 ORC ROOKIE Racing GR Supra (Naoya Gamou/Daisuke Toyoda/Kenta Yamashita/Yasuhiro Ogura).
It was a close fight for the ST-TCR victory between the #97 Racer Honda Cars Okegawa Civic TCR (Mitsuhiro Endo/Shinji Nakano/Syun Koide/Kenta Harada) and the #75 Otoginokuni Civic TCR (Toshiro Tsukada/Yoshikazu Sobu/Shigetomo Shimono/Yuji Kiyotaki). Ultimately, Racer M&K Racing took their second win in as many races this season, but only by 9.403 seconds ahead of Team Noah’s challenger. They finished 13th and 15th overall, respectively.
Just 1.423 seconds settled the victory in the ST-3 class, where the #39 Air Buster/Winmax Lexus RC 350 (Yusuke Tomibayashi/Kazuya Oshima [b.1997]/Hirotaka Ishii) just held off the #52 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota Crown RS (Naoki Hattori/Hiroki Yoshida/Kohta Kawaai) for class honours. eSports racer turned real world driver Tomibayashi duelled with Yoshida throughout the first part of the race, while Oshima held off Kawaai in the second stint. They finished 16th and 17th overall, respectively, with reigning class champions Tracy Sports taking their first win of the season.
The ST-3 podium was completed by the #244 Max Racing Nissan Fairlady Z34 (Toru Tanaka/Tetsuya Tanaka/Atsushi Miyake). Meanwhile, the #62 HELM Motorsports RC350 (Yuya Hiraki/Tomoki Takahashi/Reiji Hiraki) retired with just over an hour to go, which has impacted the ST-3 standings dramatically: Tracy Sports now lead the table with a 6.5 point advantage over Max Racing; Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave are twelve points out of first place, while HELM Motorsports have dropped to fourth, 16.5 points out of the top of the standings.
The #225 Kobe Toyopet Motorsports Toyota GR Yaris (Seita Nonaka/Hibiki Taira/Miki Onaga/Kengo Ichijo) scored their third win of the year in the ST-2 class, 24th overall. They finished 49 seconds ahead of the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh/Mizuki Ishizaka), with the #7 Shinryo Auto Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (Yoshiki Fujii/Masato Narisawa/Kensuke Anzai/Shingo Imai) finishing third in class.
In ST-4, the #310 GR Garage Mito Inter Toyota 86 of Sho Tsuboi, Shinya Hosokawa, and Fuma Hori converted pole position into their first win of the season, with the #884 Hayashi Telempu Shade Racing 86 (Yuji Kunimoto/Keishi Ishikawa/Eijiro Shimizu) finishing second in class. The gap between Corolla Shin-Ibaraki Racing and Shade Racing is now just ten points in the standings.
And in ST-5, there was yet another close finish. This time, it was the #50 Love Drive Racing Mazda Roadster of Koji Yamanishi, Yoshihito Shinoda, and Hiroyuki Matsumura claiming the win by just 2.925 seconds ahead of the #17 Team NOPRO Mazda Demio Diesel (Tobio Ohtani/Masataka Inoue/Toshihiko Nogami/Yoshihiro Kato). It’s the fourth straight win for the rear-wheel drive Roadster this season. The #66 odula Tone Roadster (Takayuki Takechi/Tatsuya Ota/Takahisa Ohno/Kyosuke Inomata) completed the ST-5 podium, and now takes the championship lead after the sister car in the Over Drive stable, the #456 odula Star5 Roadster (Riku Hashimoto/Kousei Kanto/Tatsuya Osaki/Koji Obara), finished nine laps down in 11th, out of the points.
Finally, a word on the hydrogen powered #32 ORC Rookie Racing Toyota Corolla Sport H2 Concept: They finished the race, completing 85 laps with eight pit stops and no serious mechanical issues. Toyota Motor Corporation President, Akio “Morizo” Toyoda, brought the car to the chequered flag, joined by co-drivers Takuto Iguchi, Masahiro Sasaki, and Takamitsu Matsui. The Corolla H2 Concept will run for the remainder of the 2021 season.
That includes the next race, on 19 September at Suzuka Circuit for five hours of racing.
Images courtesy of Naoyuki Hata and the Super Taikyu Organisation (STO)
Additional images courtesy of D’station Racing