TOM'S Toyota crew faces engine penalty at Autopolis
Ryo Hirakawa’s SUPER GT title chances have been dealt a further blow as his TOM’S Toyota team faces an engine change penalty in next weekend’s Autopolis race.
Toyota introduced a second engine for all six of its GR Supra crews last time out at Sugo, but three of its cars dropped out of the race with mechanical issues, casting doubts over the reliability of the new unit.
Now it has emerged that the #37 TOM’S crew, which also failed to finish at Sugo after Hirakawa was taken out in an incident involving the SARD GR Supra of Yuichi Nakayama, will have to take a third engine of the season at Autopolis.
This will mean Hirakawa and returning teammate Sacha Fenestraz are set to have to serve a stop-and-go penalty during the race for exceeding their annual allocation of two engines, much like the NISMO Nissan GT-R crew did at Sugo following that team’s decision to change its engine after qualifying.
It deals further damage to Hirakawa’s ambition to make up for last year’s heart-breaking near miss and clinch a second SUPER GT title.
His Sugo DNF had left he and Sena Sakaguchi – Fenestraz’s replacement for the opening five rounds of the season – a daunting 27 points behind Naoki Yamamoto in the Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT with three rounds to go.
Also set to take a fresh engine, and therefore a penalty, for the Autopolis race is the #38 Cerumo car of Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura.
Tachikawa and Ishiura likewise failed to finish at Sugo owing to a turbo problem, which followed an early trip through the gravel for veteran racer Tachikawa.
As well as Toyota, rival GT500 marques Honda and Nissan likewise brought new engines to the Sugo round, albeit with Honda opting to only run its latest unit in three of its five NSX-GT over reliability fears.
But with the new engine having proven itself, it appears likely the two Hondas that ran without it at Sugo – the #8 ARTA car and the #16 Mugen machine – will be equipped with their second power units for Autopolis.
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