More wet weather plagued the 2019 Autobacs Super GT season at its second race, the Fuji 500Km.
The race opened behind the Safety Car due to the sudden rain that had drenched the Fuji Speedway track. With the race starting from Lap 3, the #23 Motul Autech GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli started on pole, with the #37 KeePer TOM’s LC500 of Ryō Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy close behind.
The eventual winners, the pair of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa in the #32 Zent Cerumo LC500, took advantage of the perilous conditions and rose from seventh to third in a chaotic sequence of laps.
Due to thunder and increased rain, the race was called to a stop at Lap 15. At this point, Ishiura and Tachikawa were now in the lead, with Matsuda / Quintarelli and Hirakawa / Cassidy in second and third respectively.
“I don’t really know why they stopped the race, the conditions are fine my visibility is fine I’m really surprised,” Cassidy told his team over the pit-to-car radio when the red flags were unfurled.
The race resumed under Safety Car conditions after a 30-minute suspension, and after exploratory laps, the drivers got right underway the top-three waging a fierce battle for the lead.
Cassidy overtook Quintarelli for second place, but coming up behind was the #12 Calsonic GT-R of Daiki Sasaki and James Rossiter. The battle between the two GT-Rs allowed the #17 Keihin Honda NSX of Bertrand Baguette and Koudai Tsukakoshi to join the battle. It capatalised on the scrap, overtaking both GT-Rs to take third place on Lap 20.
Cassidy continued to push on the leading #32 Lexus, posting the fastest lap of the race in his efforts to close the gap.
The battle between the leading cars saw several position changes until the finish, with Ishiura and Tachikawa eventually claiming victory – the first for the Zent Cerumo team in two years – from Matsuda and Quintarelli.
Reigning champions Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto recovered from a poor twelfth-fastest in qualifying to finish third in their #1 Raybrig Honda NSX-GT, while a similar charge netted Heikki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama fourth place in the #39 SARD Lexus LC500.
Back-to-back second place finishes for Matsuda and Quintarelli see the pair on top of the GT500 Drivers’ Championship standings on 24.5 points, three clear of Tachikawa and Ishiura. Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa, winners of the red-flagged season-opener in Okayama, finished ninth and have slipped to third in the standings.
The GT300 class delivered a thrilling battle for victory which went down to the final corner of the race. Early on, the #11 GAINER Nissan GT-R of Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda dominated proceedings and enjoyed a lead of over 10 seconds.
However, the decision of the #55 ARTA crew now to change tyres for its pairing of Shinichi Takagi and Nirei Fukuzumi brought them into contention for victory.
The #55 duo were right on the tail of the leaders on the final lap, and threatened to overtake for a famous victory. In the end, the pair finished just 0.239 seconds apart.
The podium was completed by the #88 Manepa Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Takashi Kogure and Yuya Motojima, while class polesitters Kazuki Hiramine and Sacha Fenestraz in the #56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R finished fourth.
The Super GT Championship moves to the Suzuka Circuit for its next race on May 26, where hopefully the weather will hold out as Japan moves into its summer months.
|2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT FUJI 500KM – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (GT500 CLASS)|
|Drivers||Team / Entry||Result||Pts|
|Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo||3:40:46.358||20|
|Team Kunimitsu||+ 44.890||11|
|Lexus Team SARD||+ 45.809||8|
|Keihin Real Racing||+ 46.972||6|
|NDDP Racing||+ 1:16.405||5|
|Lexus Team KeePer TOM’S||+ 1:28.019||4|
|Lexus Team LeMans Wako’s||1 lap behind||3|
|Autobacs Racing Team Aguri||1 lap behind||2|
|Modulo Nakajima Racing||1 lap behind||1|
|Team Mugen||1 lap behind|
|Team Impul||2 laps behind|
|Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh||3 laps behind|
|Kondo Racing||7 laps behind|
|Lexus Team au TOM’S||Engine|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 20-15-11-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.
The Tsugio Matsuda / Ronnie Quintarelli entry is awarded an additional 1 championship point for claiming pole position.
Image via Super GT