The #99 Y’s Distraction GTNET Nissan GT-R GT3 of Tadao Uematsu, Kazuki Hoshino, and Kiyoto Fujinami got the GTNET Motor Sports team their first Super Taikyu Series victory in over a year by taking the victory in the Suzuka 4 Hour Endurance Race, the third round of the 2017 Super Taikyu season.
With the help of some smart strategy during a key safety car intervention, and some superb driving from their professional drivers Hoshino and Fujinami, the #99 GT-R went on to take the overall victory at Suzuka Circuit – the eleventh consecutive victory in Super Taikyu for the Nissan GT-R GT3.
Fujinami was able to take the lead at the very first corner after a great start from the outside of the front row, swarming past the pole-winning #8 ARN Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki) which yet again failed to lead the first lap from pole.
The race would turn at the end of the first hour of the race, when the #112 Rn-sports Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (Atsushi Sato/Ryosei Yamashita/Nobuo Kubo) lost its right front tyre coming out of the infamous 130R, bringing out a Safety Car intervention. During the safety car, the #99 Y’s Distraction GT-R, the #8 ARN Ferrari, and the #3 Endless Advan GT-R (Yuke Taniguchi/Hideki Yamauchi/Yuya Motojima) made their first pit stops and driver changes, with the Gentleman drivers’ minimum time at the wheel being partially run under the safety car.
They also had one more stop in hand over the #1 ThreeBond Nissan Automobile Technical College GT-R (Yuudai Uchida/Tomonobu Fujii/Kazuki Hiramine), the #89 HubAuto Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Morris Chen/Hiroki Yoshimoto/Yuya Sakamoto) and the #777 D’station Porsche 911 GT3-R (Satoshi Hoshino/Seiji Ara/Tsubasa Kondo), giving them the upper hand on strategy throughout the race.
The race took another turn when, on lap 57, Uchida in the ThreeBond GT-R collided with an ST-4 class backmarker, causing right-rear suspension damage that took over 30 minutes to repair. They would eventually return to the track, but down 17 laps, the winners of the first two races this season would not get a chance for three in a row.
In the final leg of the race, it was down to the two remaining Nissan GT-Rs for the win of the race. Fujinami returned to the helm of the Y’s Distraction GT-R to close out the race, and Motojima would take over the Endless GT-R.
The two young lions battled very hard for several laps, with Fujinami even diving out to the grass in the run up to the Hairpin Corner to try and pass Motojima in the last hour of the race. But on lap 81, Fujinami made a daring three-wide pass into the S curves using another backmarker as a pick to take the lead of the race – a lead that the 22-year old would not relinquish as they took the win, completing 108 laps and winning by 10.994 seconds.
It’s GTNET Motor Sports’ first win in Super Taikyu since the 2015 season finale, which was also held at Suzuka Circuit.
The Endless GT-R finished in second for the third time in as many races this season, and the ARN Ferrari finished third – with gentleman driver Nagai even lapping at or above the pace of pro driver Motojima in the Endless GT-R. For Nagai, Sasaki, and the ARN Ferrari, its their second podium of the season.
Fourth in the overall classification was the D’station Porsche, and fifth was the sole ST-1 entry, the #31 Nissoku Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Katsuhito Ogawa/Masami Kageyama/Ryuichiro Tomita) which won its class by default.
Sixth overall, and winners in the ST-3 class, were the #62 Denso Le Beausset Motorsports Lexus RC350 (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama/Kenta Yamashita). They completed 99 laps, and lapped the entire ST-3 field.
There was also a very enthralling battle for second in class between the #38 muta Racing Lexus IS350 (Makoto Hotta/Ryohei Sakaguchi) versus the #62 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota Mark X (Naoki Hattori/Shigekazu Wakisaka/Takayuki Hiranuma), with Wakisaka battling Sakaguchi in the closing laps, and ultimately winning out by just a second.
The #98 Modulo Honda Civic TCR (Takuya Kurosawa/Keishi Ishikawa/Hiroki Katoh) came from behind to take the lead and the win in ST-R with just 18 minutes left, after the #45 Liqui Moly Audi RS3 LMS (Shozo Tagahara/Takuya Shirasaka/Naoto Takeda), which had dominated its class for most of the race, was forced to take an emergency stop and concede the lead for the second straight race.
The win gives Katoh a confidence-building victory heading into his return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this coming weekend with the Clearwater Racing team. The new #10 RacingLine Performance Volkswagen Golf TCR (Philippe Devesa/Shogo Mitsuyama) rounded off the podium in its debut race.
The #97 Modulo Civic TCR (Keiichi Tsuchiya/Hidenori Kouuchi/Ryo Michigami) was on track for a podium finish before getting involved in a collision during Michigami’s closing stint. Prior to that, the team were having a productive race, with the legendary Drift King Tsuchiya putting in a respectable effort in his racing return.
The #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh) won the ST-2 class after holding off the challenge of the pole-winning #6 Shinryo Auto/Dixcel Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (Tomohiro Tomimasu/Yasushi Kikuchi/Masazumi Ohashi), and winning by just 5.8 seconds. A very distant third was the #20 RS Ogawa Advan Lancer (Kazuya Shimogaki/Takeshi Matsumoto/Sesshuu Kondo), two laps behind the #59 WRX.
Group 2 was won by the ST-4 Class winners, the #86 TOM’s Spirit Toyota 86 (Takamitsu Matsui/Naoya Gamou/Sho Tsuboi), which also took its second win in a row in class. They completed 95 laps, and finished 26 seconds ahead of the #93 SKR Engineering Honda S2000 (Yuya Ohta/Masahiro Sasaki) in second, and a minute and 11 seconds ahead of the third-placed #13 Endless Advan 86 (Ryo Ogawa/Tsubasa Takahashi/Masaya Hanazato).
And it was another second straight victory for the ST-5 winners, the #88 Murakami Motors Mazda Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami/Takeshi Wakitani/Masanobu Kato), which won ahead of the #4 The Bride Honda Fit (Junzo Shibatani/Susumu Nakamura/Toshiya Ito) by 37 seconds. The #700 J’s Racing Honda Cars Hamamatsu North Dark Mican Fit (Hirobon/Leo Teranishi/Seiji Imuta) finished third in class.
Super Taikyu returns on July 15-16 for another weekend with two three-hour races at Autopolis circuit on Kyushu Island.
All photos courtesy of Super Taikyu Organisation (STO).