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Race report

Fuji SUPER GT: TOM'S pair deliver Toyota's first win of 2023

TOM’S duo Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata scored Toyota’s first win of the 2023 SUPER GT season in convincing fashion at Fuji Speedway.

The occupants of the #36 au-liveried Toyota GR Supra came through from sixth on the grid to beat the pole-sitting Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT of Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino by 28 seconds in the 100-lap, 450km race, which ran completely caution-free.

Completing the podium was the Real Racing Honda of Nobuharu Matsushita and Koudai Tsukakoshi after both the Kondo Racing Nissan and #8 ARTA Honda hit late dramas.

Poleman Makino led the early stages in the Kunimitsu Honda, but was kept honest throughout the opening stint by fellow NSX driver Nirei Fukuzumi in the #16 ARTA car.

Tsuboi meanwhile held position in the opening laps but was soon climbing the order, pulling off a double pass on the second ARTA car of Tomoki Nojiri and the struggling #19 Racing Project Bandoh of Yuji Kunimoto to grab fourth.

On lap 20, Tsuboi passed Daiki Sasaki’s Kondo Nissan to move up to third, and had caught up to the two leading Hondas by the time the first round of GT500 stops began.

At the start of lap 31, Tsuboi picked off Fukuzumi in the ARTA Honda for second, with both Makino and Fukuzumi coming in for their first of two mandatory pitstops that lap.

Tsuboi pitted next time round, managing to jump the Kunimitsu Honda in the process, with a shorter stop promoting the #8 Honda of Nojiri to second once all cars had pitted.

In the second stint Tsuboi gradually pulled away from Nojiri, with the advantage north of 10 seconds by the time of the #36 car’s second stop on lap 63.

Miyata took over from Tsuboi from the run to the chequered flag, emerging from the pits with 16 seconds in hand over the Kunimitsu Honda - now in the hands of Yamamoto - that returned to second place thanks to a slower second stop for the #8 car.

That was how the top two finished, with Miyata and Tsuboi both collecting their second GT500 wins - and giving the #36 TOM’S car a first win since the 2021 season finale.

Toshiki Oyu appeared to struggle for pace after taking over from Nojiri for the final stint in the #8 Honda, and after the second round of stops was jumped by the late-stopping Kondo Racing Nissan of Daiki Sasaki and Kohei Hirate in the battle for third.

Hirate, who had taken over from Sasaki at the first stop, was closing in on Yamamoto for second place when the Kondo car picked up front-left damage with five laps to go, ostensibly as a result of contact with a GT300 car, dropping out of the race.

That promoted Oyu back to third, but the ARTA driver came under big pressure from a charging Tsukakoshi in the Real Racing Honda to hang on to the place late on.

Oyu looked like he had done enough when he suddenly slowed coming out of the final corner on the penultimate lap after running out of  fuel, limping into the pits and allowing the Real car of Tsukakoshi and Matsushita, who had started the race eighth, to take the final podium spot.

After the late demise of the Kondo car, it was the #3 NDDP Racing car of Mitsunori Takakboshi and Katsumasa Chiyo that finished as best Nissan in fifth, albeit after Takaboshi was passed late on by Kenta Yamashita in the Rookie Racing Toyota.

The second TOM’S Toyota of Ukyo Sasahara and Giuliano Alesi came home sixth ahead of the Okayama-winning NISMO Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.

ARTA’s #16 car of Fukuzumi and Hiroki Otsu was hit by a drive-through penalty for a pitstop infraction, dropping them to 10th behind the SARD Toyota and Impul Nissan.

Nissan holds on to GT300 win

#56 Realize Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R

#56 Realize Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

In the GT300 class, Kondo Racing Nissan pair Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Teppei Natori converted pole position into victory after a close battle with the Inging Toyota squad.

The race boiled down to a duel between the Kondo Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, which went with a conventional strategy of changing tyres at both pitstops, and the Inging Toyota GR86, which came in for an early first stop and only changed tyres at the second stop.

De Oliveira rapidly pulled away from the field from pole position and was untroubled at the head of the field before pitting on lap 30, at which point he dropped behind both the Inging car and the Saitama Toyopet Toyota GR Supra, which was on a similar strategy.

Yuui Tsutsumi led in the Inging car until pitting on lap 46 to hand over to team-mate Hibiki Taira, who re-assumed the lead once every car had made its second stop, with de Oliveira pitting to hand over to new team-mate Natori on lap 61.

Natori resumed ahead of the Saitama Toyopet car of Hiroki Yoshida and Kohta Kawaii, which would go on to take third, but had to bridge a nine-second deficit to Taira out front.

With fresher tyres beneath him, Natori managed to eradicate the deficit, with Taira losing time battling the late-stopping K-tunes Lexus RC F GT3, and made what appeared to be an inevitable pass for the lead at the start of lap 81.

However, Taira wouldn’t go down without a fight, and took the chequered flag just half a second in arrears after attempting a last-corner pass.

Behind the Saitama Toyopet Toyota, the LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was fourth ahead of two cars that collided at the very first corner but appeared to escape serious damage, the #10 Gainer Nissan and the #88 JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi starred in the early stages, climbing as high as second at one point during the pitstop cycle, and finally finished seventh in the Team LeMans Audi R8 LMS GT3 he shares with Yoshiaki Katayama.

The apr Lexus LC500h that started second struggled for pace in the early stages but stayed out of trouble to take its first points finish in eighth.

Fuji 450km - GT500 race results:

Po No Car Driver Team Time/Gap Tyre
1 36 Toyota Japan Sho Tsuboi
Japan Ritomo Miyata
TOM'S 2:33'36.151 B
2 100 Honda Japan Naoki Yamamoto
Japan Tadasuke Makino
Kunimitsu 28.519 B
3 17 Honda Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi
Japan Nobuharu Matsushita
Real Racing 49.37 B
4 14 Toyota Japan Kazuya Oshima
Japan Kenta Yamashita
Rookie Racing 50.466 B
5 3 Nissan Japan Katsumasa Chiyo
Japan Mitsunori Takaboshi
NDDP 58.159 M
6 37 Toyota Japan Ukyo Sasahara
France Giuliano Alesi
TOM'S 59.585 B
7 23 Nissan Japan Tsugio Matsuda
Italy Ronnie Quintarelli
NISMO 01:04.9 M
8 39 Toyota Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi
Japan Yuichi Nakayama
SARD 01:05.2 B
9 1 Nissan Japan Kazuki Hiramine
Belgium Bertrand Baguette
Impul 01:20.1 B
10 16 Honda Japan Nirei Fukuzumi
Japan Hiroki Otsu
ARTA 01:21.2 B
11 8 Honda Japan Tomoki Nojiri
Japan Toshiki Oyu
12 19 Toyota Japan Yuji Kunimoto
Japan Sena Sakaguchi
Racing Project Bandoh 1 LAP Y
13 38 Toyota Japan Yuji Tachikawa
Japan Hiroaki Ishiura
Cerumo 1 LAP B
14 64 Honda Japan Takuya Izawa
Japan Kakunoshin Ohta
Nakajima Racing 1 LAP D
15 24 Nissan Japan Daiki Sasaki
Japan Kohei Hirate
Kondo 5 LAP Y


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