The Golden Week motorsports festivities kicked off in Japan at Sportsland SUGO, as the second round of the 2017 Super Taikyu Endurance Series championship got underway with the first of two three-hour races on the weekend, this one for Group 2, featuring the ST-4 and ST-5 classes of cars.
Not even a drive-through penalty for a pit work violation could stop the #86 TOM’s Spirit Toyota 86 from capping off a perfect result on Saturday, as the trio of reigning GT300 Drivers’ Champion Takamitsu Matsui, Naoya Gamou, and TDP young star Sho Tsuboi drove on to take the win from pole position.
After taking pole position on Saturday morning, the race got underway in the afternoon – and Matsui quickly bolted to an early, overwhelming lead over the rest of the field. After 40 laps, including the fastest lap of the race on lap 3, Sho Tsuboi took over the wheel of the number 86 for his first race of the 2017 campaign.
But the team were handed a drive-through penalty for a pit work violation, leaving Tsuboi to make up the deficit to the new leaders, the #55 SunOasis AutoFactory 86 (Jun Tashiro/Takashi Ito/Masayuki Tanaka). Tsuboi was able to do just that after Tashiro pitted on lap 59, and after Gamou took over the TOM’s Spirit 86 for the closing stint, no other car had a challenge for them as they went on to take the overall victory in the Group 2 race.
With five laps to go, the best battle was for second between the #54 TC Corse iRacing Mazda Roadster (Teruaki Kato/Yuui Tsutsumi) and the #13 Endless Advan 86 (Ryo Ogawa/Tsubasa Takahashi/Masaya Hanazato – DNR). Tsutsumi in the NC Roadster, and Ogawa in the Endless 86 collided at Horseback Corner with four to go, sending Tsutsumi off course and unable to take the chequered flag after a great race for the TC Corse squad.
Ogawa would go on to finish second, but was given a 35 second time penalty for avoidable contact in the process – it still wasn’t enough to demote the Endless Sports squad from second place.
Finishing third was the #93 SKR Engineering Honda S2000 (Yuya Ota/Masahiro Sasaki/Yoshikazu Sobu – DNR), winners at Motegi, which did well to go all the way from 14th on the grid to finish 3rd, making up most of their time and distance in Sasaki’s first stint in the car.
With 20 points for the win, plus bonuses for finishing the race and starting on pole position, the TOM’s Spirit Toyota 86 moves into the ST-4 Championship lead with 38 points, over the SKR Engineering S2000 at 35 points, and the Endless Advan 86 at 29 points after two rounds.
It’s also the second class victory in as many weekends for Matsui and Gamou – last weekend, joined by Takuto Iguchi in a Lexus RC at the Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualifying Race, this weekend, joined by Sho Tsuboi in the Toyota 86.
ST-5 was dominated by the bright orange #88 Murakami Motors Mazda Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami/Takeshi Wakitani) all day on Saturday, and will leave Sugo with a ten-point championship lead after winning the ST-5 class.
After taking pole position in the morning, the #88 Roadster held a commanding lead for most of the race, and went on to win ST-5 by a full lap over the #57 M&K Management Honda Fit (Mitsuhiro Endo/Ryusuke Masumoto) in second, and the #2 Team Bomex with Auto-Labo Mazda Roadster (Katsuhiko Tsutsui/Junichiro Yamashita/Koji Yamanishi) in third.
The #700 J’s Racing Honda Fit (Hirobon/Leo Teranishi/Hirozaku Takahashi) concedes the ST-5 points lead after finishing two laps down in eighth, while the #69 J’s Racing Fit (Takahisa Ohno/Junichi Umemoto) broke down at the hairpin at the end of the first hour of the race – not a good weekend for the defending ST-5 champion squad.
Love Drive Racing were on track for a solid result, but the #50 Mazda Roadster of Marie Iwaoka, Enami Kirihito, and newcomer Eriko Yamamoto suffered a terminal engine failure at the end of the second hour, and was forced to retire for the second time in as many races.
Tomorrow’s Group 1 race will start at 2:00 PM JST on Sunday, with the #8 ARN Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki) on pole for the second time this season.