Buriram Super GT: Hirakawa/Cassidy take points lead with win
Lexus TOM'S duo Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa eased to victory in a wet-dry Super GT race at Buriram, taking the championship lead in the process.
Cassidy and Hirakawa made a two-stop strategy work to bring home their second win of the season after their earlier triumph in the Okayama season opener.
They now lead the championship by six points, with only November's Motegi finale left to run.
The TOM'S pair were among the majority of GT500 runners in choosing wet tyres for the start, which proved the much better option for the opening stint on a thoroughly-soaked, if drying, track.
After a safety car start, Cassidy led the way out front, gradually edging ahead of nearest rival Jann Mardenborough in the #12 Calsonic Impul Nissan.
The Kiwi soon found himself navigating through GT300 traffic as the track dried further and Mardenborough closed in – but stopping for slicks a lap earlier than the Brit allowed Cassidy some breathing room for the second stint.
The gap between the pair ebbed and flowed through traffic over the next stretch of the race, until Cassidy came in on lap 34 of 66, handing over the car to Hirakawa.
Mardenborough stayed out longer, threatening the TOM'S team with an overcut as he set the the best lap of the race. He entered the pits on lap 40 to hand over the car to Hironobu Yasuda, but the team struggled to get the car up on the jacks, losing precious time.
This left Kazuya Oshima in the #6 Wako Lexus – which followed the leading pair close in the hands of Andrea Caldarelli – as the leading car's nearest rival.
But Hirakawa was now too far ahead to be threatened, bringing the car home to win by 12.1s over Oshima, who made up a Lexus 1-2.
Despite the slow stop, Mardenborough and Yasuda were still on course for a podium – their first of the season – as the latter fought off the #17 Real Racing Honda of Takashi Kogure.
But the Nissan then slowed with two laps to go, forcing Yasuda to pull over at the side of the track and retire.
Kogure and teammate Koudai Tsukakoshi completed the podium, ending up as the only non-Lexus entry in the top six – with the #38 car of Hiroaki Ishiura/Yuji Tachikawa, the #36 of Kazuki Nakajima/James Rossiter and the #1 of Heikki Kovalainen/Kohei Hirate following suit.
The latter pair were top among those who gambled to start on slicks, which was also the strategy of choice for Nissan's erstwhile championship leaders Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli.
Matsuda and Quintarelli could only salvage ninth, and have now dropped to third in the standings – with 61 points to Hirakawa and Cassidy's 69 and Oshima and Caldarelli's 63.
The GT300 honours at Buriram also went to Lexus, as Yuichi Nakayama and Sho Tsuboi scored their second win of the campaign in the #51 entry.
Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka finished runner-up in the #4 Mercedes, and now lead Nakayama/Tsuboi by nine points heading into Motegi.
Sven Muller and Tomonobu Fujii completed the podium in the #33 Porsche after a standout opening stint by the former on slicks.
Richard Lyons led much of the race from pole in the #21 Audi entry, but the team had to retire later on due to electrical problems.
Buriram Super GT: Hirakawa, Cassidy claim pole by 0.049s
Motegi Super GT: Nissan takes crucial pole in finale
About this article
|Location||Chang International Circuit|
|Drivers||Ryo Hirakawa , Nick Cassidy|
|Article type||Race report|