The Fuji GT 500km race, Round 2 of the 2013 Autobacs Super GT series, took place at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4.563 km x 110 laps) in Shizuoka Pref. on April 29th. The GT500 race turned into a fierce battle between four Lexus SC430 cars in which the Petronas Tom’s SC430 driven by Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter prevailed to take the win.
In the GT300 class, the winner was the Panasonic apr Prius GT (Morio Nitta and Koki Saga) that debuted in the Super GT’s GT300 class last year. This marks the first victory ever for a hybrid car in Super GT.
Fuji Speedway was blessed with fine weather for this race held on Showa Day capping the April three-day holiday. The race for round two of the Super GT series started at 14:00 on the dot. This long-distance 500km race is the second longest of the series.
Starting from pole position in the GT500 class, Kazuki Nakajima in the Petronas Tom’s SC430 got a fine start to take the lead in the race. With three more Lexus SC430 cars that are always strong at Fuji Speedway close behind Nakajima, the Denso Kobelco SC430, Zent Cerumo SC430 and the Eneos Sustinsas SC430, it was certain to develop into an exciting contest between them. But the Petronas Tom’s SC430 in the hands of Nakajima and then James Rossiter in the middle stint, raced on at a consistently fast pace lap after lap. Although the Denso Kobelco SC430 took the lead temporarily during the middle stage of the race, fast pit work at the second driver change put Nakajima back on the track quickly to take the lead again. Behind Nakajima was the Zent Cerumo SC430 driven by Yuji Tachikawa, owner of the most wins here at the Fuji course, and he was able to close to within less than a second with about five laps remaining in the race. But, Nakajima kicked in a last spurt of speed to beat Tachikawa to the finish. This gave both Nakajima and Rossiter their first-ever GT500 win.
Proving the perennial strength of the Lexus SC430 here at Fuji Speedway, Toyota’s home course, the top four places all went to SC430 machines this time. This marked the SC430’s first win of the season and its 17th GT500 win overall.
In the GT300 class, the Panasonic apr Prius GT starting from 5th position on the grid and driven by Morio Nitta and Koki Saga staged a close battle with another hybrid, the Mugen CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh/Yuhki Nakayama), and came from behind dramatically in the final stages of the race to take the first Super GT victory for the Prius.
The Prius GT is a hybrid racing car that uses the same hybrid system as the production model Prius. It debuted in the opening round of last year’s series, and today’s victory marked the first Super GT win ever for a hybrid car. With this win, Nitta extended his record for most wins by a driver in the GT300 class to 18.
For Saga it was his second GT300 win.
No. 36 Petronas Tom’s SC430 [GT500]
Kazuki Nakajima: “This was my first win in a regular GT500 series race and the first for the Tom’s team in quite a while, and now that it is over with, I can say that this was a perfect weekend. With the great condition that the car was set up in, the great tires prepared for us and the right choice of those tires, everything was indeed perfect this round. It was so perfect that it almost made me feel that if we hadn’t won this time, I don’t know when we might ever win. We were able to come through so well from the first sessions yesterday to this morning’s practice that I was thinking I really might be able to enjoy this race, but it turned out that, as always, the race is never easy. But, I tried to keep the good flow we had going until this morning and in the end we were able to win.”
James Rossiter: “I am so happy that we have won. TOM’S is every bit the great team I thought it would be. And, I came to this team to get wins. For the team it is the first win in some time, and it was also the first win in a while for me personally. With all the Lexus teams racing strongly, and knowing that I was running on fresh tires, I was particularly careful how I ran through the GT300 class traffic in sector three of the course. Near the end of my stint the traffic was finally causing the gap to get smaller, but the team made up for it with the fast pit work.”
No. 31 Panasonic apr Prius GT [GT300]
Morio Nitta: “To tell you the truth, I thought there wouldn’t be much chance of us winning today. The CR-Z was so fast that I thought we might end up in 2nd place again like last time, but I was determined to never give up and keep pushing to the end, and then a miracle happened in the latter stages of the race. It feels like I’ve just won the lottery. Of course, it would have been great if we could have won it in a direct battle with them, but this time lady luck was there for us. That’s wonderful. I’m glad to bring this good news to the fans and all the people who prepared the car for us.”
Koki Saga: “I came to the apr team three seasons ago and since last season I have been driving with Nitta-san, and before that Nitta-san had a great partner in [Shinichi] Takagi-san, so I have been hoping that could become almost as good a partner as he was. Now, with this win I feel that I have come a little closer to that goal and I am very thrilled. But, until the middle stages of today’s race, the weekend had not been going very well for us. I was unable to close the gap of about 40 seconds with the leader when I turned the machine back over to Nitta san, and at that point I was thinking that we would probably finish 2nd like last time. But, then the miracle happened at the very end of the race [and we won.”