ARTA NSX-takes its first win of the season! In GT300, the TANAX GAINER GT-R holds out for the win
The FAV HOTEL FUJI GT 450km RACE, Round 2 of the 2022 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series was held on May 4th (Wed. holiday) at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563m × 100 laps). Big accidents caused the race to be stopped twice, resulting in its finish at the end of 62 laps, which saw the GT500 class victory go to the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Nirei Fukuzumi), while the GT300 class win went to the No. 10 TANAX GAINER GT-R (Ryuichiro Tomita/Riki Okusa/Yusuke Shiotsu).
The race started at 2:30 in the afternoon with the air temperature at 20°C and the track surface temperature at 33°C. In the opening lap, the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S GR Supra (Sacha Fenestraz) starting from 4th position on the grid moved up to take the lead. Moving into 2nd position from a 3rd position grid start was the No. 3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL Z (Katsumasa Chiyo), and on the 2nd lap of the race the No. 36 au TOM'S GR Supra (Sho Tsuboi) had moved up from an 8th position grid start to pass No. 3 and move into 3rd place. This put cars No. 37, No. 36 and No. 3 in the battle for the lead. In the early stages of the race these three cars pulled away in the lead from the following pack from 4th position down, and on the 24th lap car No. 36 took the lead.
This race was to be competed over a distance of 450 km, which was a first in SUPER GT history, so it was expected that the teams would be coming up with new race strategies, but in the GT500 class there would be no major changes in the race order through the first routine pit stop. Meanwhile, on the 44th lap there was a crash by a GT300 class machine that caused a Full Course Yellow (FCY) to be employed, and this enabled the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra (Yuhi Sekiguchi) that had made its pit stop just before this to move up to 3rd position.
The FCY led to an intervention by the Safety Car to control the race and eventually to a red flag that stopped the race completely for some time. When the race was restarted about 25 minutes later, a difference in pace emerged among the top four cars perhaps due to a difference in their now cooled tire performance, which enabled car No. 39 to quickly take the lead. Following in 2nd position came car No. 3 (Mitsunori Takaboshi), and these two cars would go on to battle for the lead. On the home straight of the 58th lap the top three cars were running nose to tail when they came up on a slow-running GT300 class car suffering from machine trouble. As the three cars tried to avoid this obstacle, car No. 3 spun out of control. This resulted in Car No. 3 crashing violently into the track-side guard rail. As a result, the race had to be stopped once again. Fortunately, Takaboshi was not injured, but the guard rail suffered significant damage.
Eventually, the race was restarted at 6:10, but that left just 10 minutes before the time limit for race extension, and as a result the race ended after three laps run behind the Safety Car. However, when penalties were applied to cars No. 39 and No. 37 that finished in 1st and 2nd places, this moved the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Nirei Fukuzumi) up to 1st place and their first win of the season. The No. 36 au TOM'S GR Supra (Sho Tsuboi/Giuliano Alesi) finished 2nd and 3rd place went to the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL Z (Kazuki Hiramine/Bertrand Baguette). Since the race had not reached to required 75% of the initially designated distance, the series points awarded for the race will be halved.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi) was passed by Tomita in the 2nd position grid starting No. 10 TANAX GAINER GT-R (Ryuichiro Tomita/Riki Okusa/Yusuke Shiotsu). By the time all of the cars had finished their first pit stop, car No. 10 (Okusa) was still in the lead. Due to the Safety Car runs, the No. 34 BUSOU raffinee GT-R (MasaTaka Yanagida/Yuji Ide) and car No. 61 were able to close the gap on it, but the rookie Okusa was able to hold them off and take the win.
(Spectators: 44,000 on May 4 (race day); 29,000 on May 3 (qualifying day))
No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT [GT500] Tomoki Nojiri: “Because there was a big crash, I honestly didn’t want to keep racing after that. But after we took the checkered flag, I saw all the fans waving for us, and that made me glad that we kept running till the end. They say we won today but considering the circumstances (the penalties that caused the order change), I don’t think you can say that we really won, so next time I want us to win straight out.”
Nirei Fukuzumi: “I am speaking here as the race winner, but I hardly feel happy about it at all. But with the big crash in front of so many fans that came to see the race today, I have to say that it scared me. So, I just want to say thanks to everyone who cheered us on to the end in spite of it all.”
No.10 TANAX GAINER GT-R [GT300]
Ryuichiro Tomita: “First of all I just want to thank all the fans who came out to watch us race to the end of this long race. Since there was that big crash, I think it was hard on all of the drivers too, but they kept running to the end without losing heart. Personally, I haven’t really come to terms with everything that happened. And I don’t really feel like this has been a win, but I have to give full credit for this result to Okusa-san who drove for us to the end. Anyway, I feel that we were able end this as a good day for us.”
Riki Okusa: “I am truly grateful to all of the fans who stayed with us to the end. Since we had a crash in our tests at Fuji, I really want to express my thanks to the team that repaired our car (in time for the opening round) and to Tomita-san for all his advice for an inexperienced (rookie) like me. I was really nervous when I was out there during the final Safety Car run, and when it was over, I was so happy that it brought tears to my eyes. This is my debut year and I am honestly just so happy that we got this win today.”
*Yusuke Shiozu did not drive in the race.
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