Drivers question Fuji restart decision after Takaboshi crash

SUPER GT drivers have questioned the decision to attempt to restart Wednesday's Fuji 450km race following Mitsunori Takaboshi's terrifying crash.

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On lap 59 of 100, Nissan man Takaboshi suffered an enormous accident along the start/finish straight as he suddenly swerved to avoid the slow-moving Arnage Racing GT300 car, having been tucked in the slipstream of the race-leading SARD Toyota of Yuhi Sekiguchi.

After getting out of his wrecked car unaided, Takaboshi was cleared of any major injury but was taken to hospital as a precaution.

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The incident caused the second red flag of the race, as an earlier crash involving the R'Qs Motor Sports Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Hisashi Wada had already brought proceedings to a halt.

While the first stoppage proved relatively short, the damage to the guardrail along the main straight as a result of Takaboshi's crash was significant enough to bring the race to a stop for some 90 minutes.

After a lengthy operation to place tyre stacks in front of the section of damaged guardrail, a restart was finally called with just 10 minutes left until the race was due to time out at 6.20pm local time.

However, a further delay due to the Team Mach GT300 car failing to get away from its grid slot meant that there was no time for any green-flag laps, with the field taking the chequered flag behind the safety car.

Tyre barrier installation

Tyre barrier installation

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

TOM'S Toyota man Sacha Fenestraz, whose teammate Ritomo Miyata finished second on the road but was demoted to 14th in the final classification owing to a penalty, felt the drivers' wishes after Takaboshi's crash were not respected.

"I don’t really understand," Fenestraz told when asked about the decision to restart. "Every driver I spoke to didn’t want to restart. Even the team managers were telling that to race control.

"And when you see the tyre wall they put there [where the barrier was damaged]... if the worst happened and there was another crash [in the same place], those tyres could have flown into the grandstand and killed somebody, because they weren’t even secured properly.

"Nobody wanted to restart the race. It’s a shame that they didn’t get the drivers together and asked us what we wanted to do. I was a bit disappointed about that. Just out of respect for Takaboshi, it wasn’t a nice thing."

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Impul Nissan driver Bertrand Baguette added: "Looking at the state of the wall where Takaboshi crashed, and the tyres they put there, if there was another crash... it was absolutely impossible to go back to green-flag racing in those conditions.

"I think the GTA really wanted to give the fans a good show, but it was impossible to do anything but finish under the safety car.

"When you look at the state of the wall, at a point of the track where you are doing nearly 300km/h, you need to be smart. What's the point of taking so much risk for one lap [of racing]? The wall was destroyed, and we have spectators just behind the wall. It would have been crazy to restart like this."

Damaged guardrail

Damaged guardrail

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

NISMO driver Ronnie Quintarelli took a different view, saying it was his belief that SUPER GT never intended to restart the race in earnest.

But while praising the organisers for allowing the 44,000-strong race day crowd to see the cars circulate again, he said if it was not the intention to go back to green-flag racing, this should have been communicated to the teams and drivers.

"It was good to do something for the fans, but they should have said before to avoid making the teams and drivers nervous," Quintarelli told "They just said they want to restart the race normally.

"We were thinking, the temperature was going down, everything was getting cold, there could have been another crash [under green-flag conditions]. And there were many cars that were already damaged. 

"Usually when a barrier is damaged like that, you have to fully replace it, and this takes a lot of time. When they arrived with the tyre stacks, everybody was thinking, 'what are they doing?'

"If we knew the plan was just for a few laps behind the safety car, we would have been more calm."

Takaboshi crash could have been "easily avoided"

SARD effectively took responsibility for Takaboshi's crash post-race, with team boss Juichi Wakisaka admitting that Sekiguchi shouldn't have left it so late to duck out of the tow of the Arnage Toyota 86 MC, which was cruising along the main straight at 100km/h owing to a gear shift issue.

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Wakisaka acknowledged that some felt that Sekiguchi's driving was "dangerous", and Fenestraz was among those to criticise his actions.

"It could have been easily avoided," said Fenestraz of the crash. "You don’t gain much in the slipstream of a slow GT300 car, and if you do that, you should move [out of the slipstream] earlier if you have a pack of cars behind.

"We all know in the paddock that the driver who did this [Sekiguchi] is an aggressive driver. He stepped over the line in my opinion.

"It could have been a lot worse. We’re lucky nowadays that the safety of the cars is amazing. He didn’t do it on purpose, but he was just risking too much."

Kondo Racing GT300 driver Joao Paulo de Oliveira offered a similar view to that of Fenestraz on Sekiguchi's driving.

"The way the accident happened, it could have been avoided," de Oliveira told "Sekiguchi left it too late [to move out of the slipstream] and 'Mitsu' [Takaboshi] was completely blocked, he couldn’t see.

"Sekiguchi could see the car in front was going slowly so I don’t know why he did that move, knowing that 'Mitsu' was right behind. That for me is a red flag.

"We never discussed this situation specifically in the drivers’ briefing because it’s not something we expect to happen all the time, but it’s something we’ll probably discuss now. It's not something you can address with a rule change."

Sekiguchi and SARD teammate Yuichi Nakayama ended up losing victory to a penalty for a completely unrelated offence, as Sekiguchi fell foul of the rules preventing work being carried out on cars during the red flag period when he exited the cockpit to inspect the front-left corner of his car.


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