Kondo Racing were one of three teams to win championships in the penultimate round of the 2016 Super Taikyu Endurance Series, as their #24 ThreeBond Nissan GT-R driven by Yudai Uchida, Tomonobu Fujii, and Kazuki Hiramine drove to their fourth win of the season in the ST-X category – and by clinching the 2016 ST-X class championship, gave team owner Masahiko Kondo his first-ever title in sixteen years.
Kondo Racing weren’t the only champions crowned out of Sunday afternoon’s Group 1 race at Okayama International Circuit, as the #59 TOWAINTEC Racing Subaru WRX (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Goto/Yasutaka Hinoi) drove to the team’s fourth consecutive ST-2 class championship with a second place victory, and the #38 Tracy Sports Muta Lexus IS350 (Makoto Hotta/Ryohei Sakaguchi) drove to their fourth ST-3 class win of 2016, and with it, the ST-3 championship.
After Fujii set a record pole lap in qualifying, he, Uchida, and Hiramine were hardly challenged all afternoon in the Kondo Racing GT-R, as they won by 31.681 seconds after three hours and 114 laps of racing.
It was more than enough to wrap up the 2016 ST-X championship, the first Super Taikyu championship for all three drivers, and Kondo’s first championship as a team owner between Super GT, Super Formula, and Super Taikyu – a victory well worth celebrating for the musician, turned race driver, turned racing team director.
Outgoing ST-X champions, the #3 Endless Sports GT-R (Yuke Taniguchi/Kyosuke Mineo/Hideki Yamauchi), finished in second place, with a surprise third place finish going to the #108 CARGUY Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (Takeshi Kimura/Manabu Orido/Afiq Yazid) in its debut race.
ST-1 champions D’Station Racing (Satoshi Hoshino/Seiji Ara) finished seventh overall in Gr. 1 as the only entry in the category this weekend, completing 110 laps on the afternoon.
As TOWAINTEC took their ST-2 championship with a second-place finish in the category, the class win went to the #20 RS Ogawa Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (Kazuya Shimogaki/Takeshi Matsumoto/Setsushu Kondo), taking their first win of 2016.
The championship-winning Tracy Sports IS350 led an all Toyota/Lexus podium in ST-3, with second place going to the #34 asset Techno Lexus RC350 (Shuji Maejima/Masahiro Sasaki), and third to the #68 GreenBrave Toyota Mark X (Taku Bamba/Takayuki Hiranuma/Naoki Hattori).
Controversial collision yields surprise Gr. 2 Race Winner
The Group 2 race for ST-4 and ST-5 class vehicles was ended under safety car, the result of a collision between Yuya Motojima and Naoya Gamou that ultimately decided the outcome of the race.
Motojima in the #13 Endless Advan Toyota 86 (left) chased down Gamou in the #86 Toyota TOM’s Spirit 86 (right) for several laps, but the two made contact on lap 84 as Motojima tried to make his move for the lead at the Hairpin corner. Motojima drove away relatively unscathed, while Gamou’s 86 was heavily damaged and finished eighth.
As the race ended under the safety car, with the Endless Advan 86 taking the yellow and chequered flags, Motojima thought he had secured the ST-4 class title for him and his co-drivers Nobuhiro Murata and Ryo Ogawa. But race officials deemed Motojima’s move was rash enough to warrant a 30-second time penalty after the race.
That decision crowned an unexpected race winner: The #54 TC Corse iRacing Mazda Roadster (Teruaki Kato/Tsubasa Kondo/Yuui Tsutsumi), which had never finished better than 13th to this point in the season, would have been elated to finish second on the road – but the penalty to Endless Sports gave TC Corse a surprise victory after three years of competition, the first for a car other than the Toyota 86 in ST-4 competition.
The #52 GreenBrave Toyota 86 (Juichi Wakisaka/Shigekazu Wakisaka/Koji Matsuda) completed the podium, giving Saitama Toyopet’s teams two podium finishes on the day.
The title is not officially decided in ST-4 as of yet, but with the Endless Sports team leading by 21 points, the maximum available at Autopolis, and with 3 wins to 1 on the season, it’s all but impossible for Toyota Team TOM’s Spirit to take the title in the final race.
The #19 BRP★J’s Racing Honda Fit (Masanobu Komiya/Tomoya Matsuda/Akira Yoshimoto) took its second straight victory in the ST-5 class. It was a BRP 1-2 finish, with the #69 Fit (Takahisa Ono/Junichi Umemoto) taking second place, and the championship lead with it going into the finale at Autopolis.