Super GT premier class star Katsumasa Chiyo had a stellar evening in this past Saturday’s 1000 km du Castellet at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France.
Driving with former GT300 race winner Lucas Ordoñez and Alex Buncombe, Chiyo and the #23 Motul Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3 drove on from 32nd on the grid to finish 5th in the punishing French summer heat, leading the contingent of current and former Super GT drivers entered at the latest round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
Chiyo took the start in the #23 Motul GT-R, and with the supreme top speed of the twin-turbo V6 engine at hand, he had already gained ten positions in just ten minutes of racing. By the time night had fallen over Le Castellet, the #23 GT-R had already made its way well into the top ten.
Thanks to strong driving from the trio of Chiyo, Buncombe, and Ordoñez, they were able to secure a season-best 5th place finish, completing 170 laps and finishing just 1 minute and 37 seconds behind the race-winning #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 of Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet, and Vincent Abril.
“We’re really happy with the result,” said Ordoñez, who drove for NDDP Racing (2014) and Kondo Racing (2015) over parts of two seasons in Super GT. “After starting 32nd we really didn’t think we’d be near the podium, but to end up fighting hard in fifth is a fantastic result. It is our first points of the year and this was great preparation for the Spa-Francorchamps 24 hours, which is the big race of the season.”
Chiyo won this race in 2015, en route to winning the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup that same year with Team RJN. To date, the 30-year-old from Tokyo is still the only Japanese driver to win a major sports car endurance racing championship abroad.
Winner of the first two rounds of the Blancpain Endurance Cup at Silverstone and Monza, Lexus Super GT star Andrea Caldarelli, along with co-drivers Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti, had a difficult race in their #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
The #63 Lamborghini finished 13th, one lap off the lead, in a race compromised by a one-minute stop/go penalty for avoidable contact with another car. The #63 team still lead the overall Blancpain GT Series standings, but they now trail Bentley Team M-Sport by two points in the Endurance Cup.
None of the other Super GT alumnus were able to see the chequered flag, including Oliver Jarvis, fresh off his second-place overall result and LMP2 class victory at Le Mans. The #7 Bentley of Jarvis, Guy Smith, and Steven Kane – sister car to the winning entry – was forced to retire with a half-hour to go due to fuel pressure issues.’
Nakajima Racing ace driver Bertrand Baguette (#66 Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3), and two-time GT500 champion Benoît Tréluyer (#6 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS), also failed to finish the race with their respective teams.
The next round of the Blancpain GT Series will be the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on July 28-29 – which will feature the debut of two-time GT300 champions Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO, collaborating with the British-based RAM Racing team for their European debut.