SHIZUOKA, Japan – Gloriously sunny skies and summer-like conditions greeted race fans on Sunday, September 9th at Fuji International Speedway for Round 6 of the SUPER GT series, where the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) took a commanding lights-to-flag victory as the NISSAN GT-R won back-to-back victories is this hotly-contested championship. In addition, the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) matched its 2nd-place qualifying result with the same position in the race, vaulting the reigning champions into the lead of the title fight.
Hailing from surrounding areas including the capital and the Tokai region, no fewer than 33,800 motorsport enthusiasts came to the circuit nestled at the foot of Japan's most famous landmark, filling the grandstands with race fans for the 300-km event.
For the opening stint, Tsugio Matsuda took the wheel of the #12 GT-R in which de Oliveira had taken pole position a day earlier. Immediately after the start lights went out, Matsuda began to build up a gap over his pursuers, amply demonstrating to the fans his control of the race from the front. Without any threat from those behind, Matsuda made his pit stop on lap 34, entrusting the car to de Oliveira for the second half of the race. The Brazilian driver maintained the rapid pace set by his teammate, and quickly built up a gap of 10 seconds. As the race wore on, he stretched the gap further, so that when the flag fell after 66 laps it was a massive 21 seconds, marking a perfect race for the team. In their first victory since the Okayama round in May 2011, it was a welcome win after an interval of one year and four months. Team IMPUL Director Kazuyoshi Hoshino commented, "It was a long race. I never felt let down and it was thrilling right to the end. In order to win, sometimes you also need a little fate working on your side. I can hardly express my joy. We'll now concentrate on the remaining two races, and with more good results and a little luck, hopefully we'll be in a position to fight for the title."
Meanwhile, fresh off its win in the series' previous round, the 1000-km event at Suzuka, the #1 GT-R was looking to maintain the momentum it created when it jumped to 2nd place in the championship standings. Despite carrying the heaviest handicap (86kgs) of all of the GT-Rs, Ronnie Quintarelli nonetheless defied belief when he planted the car 2nd on the grid, a mere 0.143 seconds away from the pole-sitting #12 GT-R.
In the race, the Italian driver took the wheel for the opening stint. Although he got through the first corner cleanly in 2nd and subsequently strengthened his position on track, on lap 13 he fell back to 4th. However, he didn't try to take the position back before making his pit stop on lap 29 where he handed the car over to teammate Yanagida.
The MOLA team were able to get the #1 GT-R back out ahead of its rivals through some deft pit work, and Yanagida was able to settle back into 2nd place. From that point on, he protected his position as the laps wound down, keeping a 3-second gap ahead of the nearest car and duly netting 2nd place on the podium after the flag fell. The result lifts the pairing to the top of the championship table, moving them ever closer to a second successive title.
After qualifying seventh, the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) had Krumm behind the wheel for the opening stages. On the attack right from the start, he passed the #100 HSV for fifth place on lap nine. Constantly seeking a better position and running at a very quick pace, he incurred a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for passing under yellow flags just before handing the car over to Motoyama. As a result, the car fell to 12th position. Motoyama then put in a scintillating drive in an effort to make up for lost ground. He got past the #100 HSV on lap 59 to take 11th place, and advanced to 10th on lap 64, but a delay on the final tour saw the car finish in eleventh place.
The #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Bjorn Wirdheim) was scheduled to start from eleventh on the grid, but engine trouble on the formation lap meant the car started the race from the pitlane. The lost time saw it finish in 13th place.
In the GT300 class, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo/Daiki Sasaki) qualified in 17th spot, with Chiyo behind the wheel for the start. His aggressive driving saw the car leap up to seventh place in the opening laps, and that became sixth place not long after. For the second half, Daiki Sasaki made his first SUPER GT race appearance, the rookie driving steadily and netting points for his ninth-place finish.
Comments from #12 GT-R driver Tsugio Matsuda:
"For the time being, I feel relieved. Although we weren't able to win here in May despite running top, we pulled it off this time. The start was good and I was able to build up a gap, which was then extended. JP (de Oliveira) then stretched that advantage further, setting us up for the perfect result. We're still in the hunt for the title, and for the two remaining rounds we'll be giving a titanic effort for an upset."
Comments from #12 GT-R driver Joao Paolo de Oliveira:
"It's been a perfect weekend. Things started off well in practice, and we were able to take pole position as planned. In the race, Tsugio took charge at the start, putting in a wonderful run while managing the tires brilliantly. As a result, my stint in the car was an easy one. Although I was taken by surprise on the last lap when I came upon tire fragments and debris scattered across the track, I suppose maybe fate was on our side this time."
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