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Honda holds on to win after late drama



Tsukakoshi had been running third when the race turned to its head just after a late full course yellow period, with the two leading cars dropping out of contention in rapid succession due to unrelated reasons.

That put Tsukakoshi in the lead of the race and the 34-year-old was able to withstand intense pressure from Kenta Yamashita’s Rookie Racing Toyota to win SUPER GT’s sole endurance event of 202.

Story of the race

The Real Racing squad had qualified down in 11th place in a grid of 15 GT500 cars, but became the favourite for victory mid-race after an inspired decision to pit under the full-course yellow granted it the lead.

A spectacular middle stint by Bertrand Baguette where he stretched out an 11-second advantage only added to Real Racing’s chances, but a slow second pitstop brought the the ARTA Honda and the #36 TOM’S Toyota back into play.

ARTA driver Nirei Fukuzumi emerged in the lead of the race following the final round of pitstops but was unable to defend from Real Honda on cold tyres, dropping initially to second.

However, once his tyres were up to the temperature, the two drivers engaged in a thrilling duel and traded places for several laps, before Fukuzumi made the decisive move coming into the final corner on lap 87 of 110 to reclaim the lead.

A third FCY of the race soon followed, deployed to recover the #31 apr Toyota Prius that had stopped on track with apparent technical issues.

When the race resumed Tsuboi couldn’t return to full power again and was forced to park the #37 Supra near the Coca Cola corner, seemingly granting Fukuzumi an easy run to the chequered flag.

But shortly afterwards the ARTA Honda driver was handed a drive through penalty for overtaking a car under the FCY, putting Tsukakoshi back in the lead of the race.

As the first of the GT500 runners to complete its second stop on lap 68, Real Racing was likely marginal on both fuel and tyres in the final stint, allowing Yamashita to close right on the tail of Tsukakoshi.

A wide moment at Turn 1 following a tyre lock-up added to Yamashita’s chances, but Tsukakoshi never let the gap to close down enough to allow the 2019 champion to make a move.

On the final lap Yamashita fell into the clutches of a charging Ryo Hirakawa, allowing Tsukakoshi to escape up the road and score Real Racing’s first victory since last year’s Motegi event.

Yamashita held on to second in the Rookie Supra he shares with Kazuya Oshima, while Hirakawa completed the podium spots in the #37 TOM’S Supra he was driving with Sacha Fenestra’z stand-in Sena Sekgacuhi.

Naoki Yamamoto and the returning Tadasuke Makino were able to recover from the rear of the pack to finish fourth in the Kunimitsu Honda, losing a place to Hirakawa right at the death end of the race.

Yamamoto and Makino competed as a duo, with the team electing not to use its third driver Hideki Mutoh in the race.

The B-Max/NDDP team finished as the top Nissan squad in fifth, but with Kohei Hirate and Katsumasa Chiyo finishing over 30 seconds behind the leading quartet.

The SARD Toyota of Heikki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama couldn’t match the pace of the other Bridgestone-shod Supras but benefitted from the late drama to finish sixth, ahead of the Yokohama-shod Bandoh Toyota of Yuji Kunimoto and Ritomo Miayata that dropped from first to sixth in the opening two laps and could never quite recover from its slow start.

After serving the late penalty, Fukuzumi brought home the ARTA Honda NSX he shares with Tomoki Nojiri in eighth, as the Impul Nissan (Kazuki Hiramine and Nobuharu Matsushita) and Nakajima Honda (Takuza Izawa and Hiroki Otsu) teams completed the points scorers.

While the full-course yellow made its debut in SUPER GT at Fuji, the race also witnessed a full-blown safety car when the NISMO-entered Nissan GT-R suffered a spectacular engine blow-up at the start of lap 3, leaving a cloud of smoke behind.

LM Corsa bags GT300 honours

GT300 class also witnessed late drama when the long-time race leading Saitama Toyopet Green Brave Toyota Supra was forced to retire due to technical issues, handing the LM Corsa Toyota team its first victory since Autopolis 2019.

Shunsuke Kohno and Hiroki Yoshimoto finished 0.7s clear of the R&D Sport duo Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi, as the new Subaru BRZ notched up a maiden podium finish,

ARTA duo Shinichi Takagi and Ren Sato finished just 1.2s behind the leader in third, while Okayama-winning Kondo Racing squad finished a lap down in seventh with Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujimai behind the wheel of its Nissan.

Motorsport.tv will show the entire 2021 SUPER GT season live. Available worldwide except Japan. Click here for more information.



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