Shortly after the two hour mark, both the GT300 class #4 Hatsune Miku AMG pitted on lap 63, the #18 Upgarage 86 pitting on lap 64, the latter getting the position in the strategic tilt between the two with rookie Shinnosuke Yamada getting out ahead of Tatsuya Kataoka.
67 laps in, contact between the #37 KeePer TOM’s RC-F (James Rossiter) and #17 Keihin NSX (Takashi Kogure) resulted in the KeePer RC-F losing power momentarily. The Brit’s chances of a third straight Suzuka 1000km victory now fading ever further.
Even more heartbreak followed as the #46 S Road GT-R of Satoshi Motoyama was penalized with a 10 second stop/go penalty for overtaking under yellows – a setback in his quest for a first Suzuka 1000km victory. Motoyama responded with a blistering set of laps before pitting on lap 80, Mitsunori Takaboshi taking the wheel thereafter.
41 laps into a terrific stint, Tadasuke Makino pitted the #2 Syntium Apple Lotus from the lead to hand the car over to Kazuho Takahashi. Two laps later, Kenta Yamashita pitted the #25 VivaC 86 MC from the lead to hand the car over to Takeshi Tsuchiya.
Despite the earlier drive-through penalty, the #0 Gainer GT-R (Andre Couto) found itself in the GT300 lead at GT500 lap 75.
There was heartbreak for the #11 Gainer Tanax Mercedes-AMG team, as Bjorn Wirdheim’s gunmetal grey AMG lost drive in the S Curves on lap 77 of the race, bringing out a First Rescue Operation (FRO) vehicle.
Then there was more drama for the pole-winning #15 Drago Modulo NSX, which went into the garage on lap 82 for a terminal engine failure.
On lap 87, Nick Cassidy brought in the #36 au TOM’s RC-F from second place, with Daisuke Ito taking over.
The next lap, the class leading #38 ZENT RC-F pitted, with Tachikawa giving the car to Ishiura and completing another very strong, composed stint at the head of the field. This allowed the #1 Motul Autech NISMO GT-R to cycle to the lead for a lap, even on 100kg of success ballast, before Ronnie Quintarelli pitted the next lap, giving the car to Tsugio Matsuda.
The tragedy hit its crescendo on lap 90, when Kazuho Takahashi spun the Syntium Lotus out of the 2nd corner and crashed heavily into the tyre barriers, ending their race. Thankfully, Takahashi was uninjured, but the unforced error took one of the strongest GT300 cars out of the race.
Running Order after 90/173 laps (under safety car)
1st: #38 ZENT RC-F (Tachikawa/Ishiura)
2nd: #36 au TOM’s RC-F (Ito/Cassidy)
3rd: #39 Denso RC-F (Kovalainen/Hirate)
4th: #6 Wako’s RC-F (Oshima/Caldarelli)
5th: #46 S Road GT-R (Motoyama/Takaboshi)
1st: #18 Upgarage 86 MC (Nakayama/Yamada)
2nd: #4 Hatsune Miku AMG (Taniguchi/Kataoka)
3rd: #25 VivaC 86 MC (Tsuchiya/Matsui/Yamashita)
4th: #33 Excellence Porsche (Yamano/Sakamoto)
5th: #65 Leon Cvstos AMG (Kurosawa/Gamou)