First win of the season for the SC430 at Toyota’s home course, Fuji Speedway!
Tachikawa and Hirate pilot the ZENT CERUMO SC430 to brilliant come-from-behind victory
The FUJI GT 250km RACE, round 6 of the 2011 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held on Sept. 11 at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4.563 km × 55 laps) in Shizuoka Pref. The winner in the GT500 class for the first time this season was the ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa/Kohei Hirate).
The morning rain had stopped well before the race got underway exactly 14:00 and the track was dry throughout the race. The early stages of the race turned into an SC430 match race between the pole-starting DENSO SARD SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura) and the ZENT CERUMO (Kohei Hirate) that thrilled the crowd gathered at Fuji Speedway, Toyota’s home course.
In SUPER GT races, one pit stop with a driver change is mandatory. After that routine pit stop the battle between these two machines continued into the second half of the race. Running in the lead was the DENSO SARD SC430 (Takuto Iguchi) and giving chase from 2 to 3 seconds behind was the ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa). Seeing the fast pace of the GT500 rookie Iguchi, the veteran Tachikawa (winner of eleven GT500 victories) decided to run easy on his tires and wait until the final laps to make his move. With five laps remaining in the race the gap between the two machines closed rapidly. With three laps left to go, Tachikawa drew up alongside Iguchi at the first corner and passed him brilliantly coming out of the Coca Cola Corner. From there, Tachikawa raced on to the win, the first in two and a half years for both him and the team. In contrast, Iguchi had a collision with a GT300 machine on the last turn that caused him to spin out and give up 2nd place to the CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R. With this, the SC430 camp was denied a 1-2 finish at their home course, Fuji Speedway.
This was Tachikawa’s twelfth GT500 win. For Hirate, it was his first win in GT500 competition. For the Lexus SC430 this was the first win of the season and its twelfth overall.
In the GT300 class race, the winner was the pole-starting HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Taku Bamba). For Taniguchi and Bamba, this was their second pole-to-win race of the season, following their victory at the third round in Malaysia. This was the fifth win overall for BMW in GT300 class competition.
No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 [GT500]
I decided to go easy on my tires and wait until late in the race to put the pressure on. I think that is what became the winning factor.
Yuji Tachikawa: “I am very happy that we were able to win. Lately (2 1/2 years) we haven’t had a win and it has been a tough season this year for all the SC430 teams. So, I am especially happy that we won here. After taking over from Hirate I was chasing Iguchi, and I discovered that he was faster than I expected. So, I decided to go easy on my tires and wait until late in the race to put the pressure on. I think that is what became the winning factor. After minimizing the wear on my tires for most of my stint, I started pushing hard. When the gap started to narrow I decided to go all the way and pass him. I want to thank all the people at Lexus, TRD and our team for preparing a car capable of winning in this way.”
Kohei Hirate: “It has been two and a half years since I moved up to GT500, so I am very happy to finally get this first win. I didn’t know how car No. 39 with its Michelin tires would start the race, so I was mostly watching them during the early stages of the race. Since their tires began to lose performance at about the same time as mine, I realized that they didn’t have the kind of advantage people have been talking about lately. I felt that my role was to bring the machine back in good position for Tachikawa-san to race a good second half.”
No. 4 HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW [GT300]
Nobuteru Taniguchi: “I am very relieved that we won, and in equal parts I am extremely happy about this win. It was also a great result because (our title race rival) car No. 11 no-pointed this time. The BMW Z4 does very well here at Fuji Speedway, so I was determined for us to make a podium finish and get 10 points or more from this race. In yesterday’s qualifying things felt good from the start and the tire that Yokohama prepared for us matched the machine’s performance very well. That gave us good performance not only on the straights, where we are always strong, but also on the turns. Once I started racing the car felt good, so I extended my stint in order to reduce the risks as much as possible before turning it over to Bamba. He also did a very good job for us out there. He next round is at Autopolis, where the Z4 doesn’t do as well, but we want to keep our ranking lead so that we can go into the final round at Motegi and battle it out for the title (with car No. 11).”
Taku Bamba: “I am very happy. I am especially happy because our last win was in Malaysia and we haven’t been able to win in front of our home fans until now. For this reason I am both relieved and happy. (During the first half) Taniguchi-san’s tires performed well so it was decided that he would extend his stint to the 35th lap. For that reason, I was determined to run my shorter stint without giving up any of the margin of lead I had received. Now that we lead the ranking, we will be the ones the other teams will be chasing. I want to do my part to help us go into the final round still in the lead and win the championship title there.”