The second hour of the race began with Hiroki Katoh in the #2 Syntium Apple Lotus pitting from the GT300 lead after 30 laps to give 19-year-old rookie Tadasuke Makino his first stint in the car.
There were fights in the GT500 field, with Daisuke Ito, three-time Suzuka 1000km champion, overhauling the #15 Drago NSX (Oliver Turvey) in his white and orange #36 au TOM’s RC-F.
With the #46 S Road GT-R pitting out of sequence, Mitsunori Takaboshi had his hands full, especially with the #19 WedsSport RC-F of Yuji Kunimoto – a true Michelin vs Yokohama tyre war. As Takaboshi continued to resist the charge from Kunimoto, Ito brought the au RC-F right into the thick of the fight for 3rd.
Ito made up two places on lap 46, passing Kunimoto at the hairpin after the WedsSport RC-F locked up at the hairpin, then the au RC-F went round Takaboshi cleanly at the Triangle chicane in the same lap.
Two laps later, Kunimoto’s WedsSport RC-F fell into the clutches of another Lexus, the #6 Wako’s RC-F of Kazuya Oshima – but a collision at the Casio Triangle undid Oshima’s charge. The next lap, Oshima forced his way past his former Eneos RC-F co driver at the Degner curves, and Kunimoto lost another place to Turvey by the lap 50 mark.
Takaboshi ended a long 33-lap stint on lap 49, pitting and giving the S Road GT-R back to Motoyama, getting them closer into the ideal 5-stop window.
Bjorn Wirdheim pitted the third-place #11 Gainer Tanax AMG, handing over to Katsuyuki Hiranaka and promoting the #4 Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi) and the Syntium Lotus of Makino to 2nd and 3rd in GT300 respectively.
A seemingly routine middle stage of the race just became way more compelling when a flurry of rain hit the first sector of the track around lap 56. The next lap, Taniguchi had rapidly closed in on the leading #18 Upgarage 86 of Shinnosuke Yamada, clawing a 5 second lead away to nothing, then Taniguchi moved into the lead before the first corner on lap 58.
Despite the spat of rain, many cars, including the Subaru BRZ, au TOM’s RC-F, and the race-leading ZENT Cerumo RC-F which came in on lap 59, stayed on new sets on slick tyres. Turvey was able to get the Drago NSX to lap 59 as well before pitting and giving the car back to Mutoh.
One lap later, Hironobu Yasuda pitted the Calsonic GT-R from the class lead to give the car back to J.P. Oliveira.
But as it looked as if the Calsonic GT-R would leapfrog the ZENT RC-F and move into the lead, a small fire erupted in the cockpit on their outlap, melting the hinges of the driver side door off, and most importantly, knocking Oliveira and Yasuda out of the Suzuka 1000km – a race that they could have easily won.
Running Order after 62/173 laps
#38 ZENT Cerumo RC-F (Tachikawa/Ishiura)
#46 S Road GT-R (Motoyama/Takaboshi)
#36 au TOM’s RC-F (Cassidy/Ito)
#6 Wako’s RC-F (Oshima/Caldarelli)
#19 WedsSport Advan RC-F (Sekiguchi/Kunimoto)
#4 Hatsune Miku AMG (Taniguchi/Kataoka)
#18 Upgarage 86 MC (Nakayama/Yamada)
#2 Syntium Lotus Evora (Takahashi/Katoh/Makino)
#25 VivaC 86 MC (Takahashi/Katoh/Makino)
#33 Excellence Porsche (Yamano/Sakamoto)