The #1 ThreeBond Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 of Yuudai Uchida, Tomonobu Fujii, and Kazuki Hiramine withstood late pressure from their main rivals at Endless Sports, and scored their second straight win of the 2017 Super Taikyu Endurance Series at the three-hour Group 1 race at Sportsland SUGO.
With the #3 Endless Advan GT-R (Yuke Taniguchi/Hideki Yamauchi/Yuya Motojima) finishing second, Nissan take their second straight 1-2 finish of the 2017 season, along with their tenth straight victory in the top class of Super Taikyu.
The Modulo Honda Civic TCRs scored another 1-2 finish in the newly-renamed ST-TCR category, this time led by the #97 Civic Type R of the “SSS” trio – Shinichi Ito, Shinichi Ebisawa, and Shinji Nakano.
On Saturday morning, the #8 ARN Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki) scored their second pole position of the season, ahead of the #3 Endless Advan GT-R and the #1 ThreeBond GT-R.
But right off the start, Nagai in the ARN Ferrari was swarmed by Yamauchi in the Endless GT-R, and Fujii in the ThreeBond GT-R, who then moved into first and second respectively in the first leg of the race, putting themselves well clear of the rest of the field.
Any hope of another clean sweep of the podium was dashed when the #99 Y’s Distraction GTNET GT-R (Tadao Uematsu/Kazuki Hoshino/Kiyoto Fujinami) lost 15 laps in the pits due to a mechanical issue as Hoshino was running third.
When the amateur drivers took over in the second hour, Uchida in the ThreeBond GT-R was able to open up a gap of over 25 seconds over Taniguchi in the Endless GT-R.
That gap was erased on lap 76, when the safety car was deployed for an incident at the 110R corner involving the #777 D’station Porsche 911 GT3-R (Satoshi Hoshino/Seiji Ara/Tsubasa Kondo) and the #98 Modulo Civic TCR (Takuya Kurosawa/Keishi Ishikawa/Hiroki Katoh).
Under the safety car, Kazuki Hiramine took over the ThreeBond GT-R, and Motojima took over the Endless GT-R, for the final hour of the race. Motojima would take the restart in front, resisting the pressure until lap 86, when he was held up in traffic through the 110R, giving Hiramine momentum to attempt a pass on the outside heading into Turn 1. Motojima ran wide under braking, the crucial mistake Hiramine needed to put the Kondo Racing GT-R in front and never look back.
Uchida, Fujii, and Hiramine completed 124 laps, winning by 3 seconds over Taniguchi, Yamauchi, and Motojima. Sasaki and Nagai in the ARN Racing Ferrari finished 22 seconds back in third, taking their first podium of 2017 with the new Ferrari 488 GT3.
Kondo Racing now have an 8-point lead over Endless Sports, 40 points to 32, with ARN Racing third at 24 points in the ST-X Championship.
Only one ST-1 Class car entered, the #31 apr Nissoku Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Masami Kageyama/Katsuhiko Ogawa/Ryuichiro Tomita) – which finished seventh overall in Group 1, 4 laps ahead of the ST-TCR winning #97 Modulo Civic TCR, 4 laps back of the #777 D’station Porsche in 6th.
By default, they take the class win and the lead in the ST-1 Championship, with BEND Racing’s #51 Diamango BMW Z4 Coupe not entered.
Qualifying in ST-TCR was dominated by the Audi RS3 LMSes, with the #45 Liqui Moly DreamDrive RS3 (Shozo Takahara/Takuya Shirasaka/Naoto Takeda) on pole – but on lap 17, the #19 BRP Audi Mie RS3 (Koichi Okumura/Kei Akiyoshi/Yusaku Shibata) moved into the lead.
The #19 Audi and #97 Honda of Itoh, Ebisawa, and Nakano would position themselves as the main contenders for the victory, even after the #97 Honda picked up a drive-through penalty – but, with 14 minutes left to go, Okumura made an unscheduled stop for tyres, giving up the lead, and second place, allowing Civic TCR Racing Project to score their second 1-2 finish in as many races for the ST-TCR class in Super Taikyu.
Both Modulo Civics overcame drive-through penalties to take the 1-2 finish over the #45 DreamDrive Audi in third.
The lap 76 safety car gave Okabe Jidosha Motorsports an opportunity to break a winless streak dating back to 2015 – and the #15 Okabe Jidosha Rn-sports Nissan Z (Masaaki Nagashima/Toru Tanaka/Tetsuya Tanaka) siezed the opportunity when they cycled to the lead after the Safety Car, and won the ST-3 class, finishing tenth overall.
The pole-winning #62 Denso Le Beausset Lexus RC350 (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama/Kenta Yamashita) finished in second, and the #34 SKT Team Motoyama Nissan Z (Satoshi Motoyama/Satoshi Matsubara/Hironobu Yasuda) picked up its first podium of the season with a third place finish.
Unlucky to have to take their second stop after the safety car came out, the #38 Muta Racing Lexus IS350 (Makoto Hotta/Ryohei Sakaguchi) finished 5th in class, and now trails the #15 Okabe Jidosha Z by a single point in the ST-3 standings.
ST-2 winners TOWA INTEC Racing and the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh) finished 16th overall in a class ravaged by DNFs – both RS Ogawa Mitsubishi Lancer Evos failed to finish, as did the #6 Shinryo Racing Team Lancer.
TOWAINTEC are now 12 points clear of the #7 Shinryo Lancer Evolution (Soichiro Yoshida/Atsushi Ishizaki/Masato Narisawa) which was second in class at Sugo, and now takes second in the championship.