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The MOTEGI GT GRAND FINAL, Round 8 of the 2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at Twin Ring Motegi (lap = 4.801 km x 53 laps) in Tochigi Pref. on November 13. The Motegi event this time included a race on Saturday to make up for the Autopolis Round 3 race that had to be cancelled in May due to the Kumamoto Earthquakes. This meant that the final Round 8 race on this day was the second of two consecutive days of racing for the competing SUPER GT teams.denso-kobelco-sard-rc-f

In the Round 8 final race, GT500 class race winner was the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F (Heikki Kovalainen/ Kohei Hirate) in a stunning victory run from pole position that also brought the team the season Driver championship title. In the GT300 class, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC (Takeshi Tsuchiya/Takamitsu Matsui) won the race and in doing so also won the GT300 class Drivers Championship title.

In this day’s qualifying session run from 9:05 in the morning, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F team’s Kohei Hirate had won pole position, the second pole in two days, following the one won by teammate Heikki Kovalainen in the Round 3 qualifying the day before.

And, as with the day before, this day’s race began with the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F (Kohei Hirate) making a good start from pole position to take control of the race. Chasing the leading DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F in the early going were two more RC F machines, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F (Andrea Caldarelli) and the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (Ryo Hirakawa). Coming to Twin Ring Motegi as leader of the season ranking and looking for its third consecutive title, the No. 1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) was running in 8th position and apparently not in top form. After taking the lead in the season ranking with its win in yesterday’s Round 3 race, No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F was now running strongly in the front when it made its routine pit stop. The LEXUS TEAM SARD mechanics performed the pit work with no mistakes and sent Heikki Kovalainen back into the race effectively in the lead in the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F. When all of the teams had completed their pit stops, the DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F was securely in the lead. In the later stages of the race, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F(Kazuya Oshima) was closing in on No. 39’s rear, but Kovalainen, with his F1 driving experience remained calm and certain as he took the checkered flag first by just 0.472 sec. For Kovalainen, who began competing in SUPER GT last season, this was his first win, and for Hirate it was his sixth.

This victory also won the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F pair of Kovalainen and Hirate the 2016 Drivers championship. The Team championship also went to the No. 39 LEXUS TEAM SARD, meaning that the long awaited first title for this venerable team that has been competing in SUPER GT since its inaugural year, 1994, came as a double title. For Kovalainen it is his first title and for Hirate his second in the GT500 class.

In the GT300 class, the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT team’s Yuichi Nakayama won the pole position in the morning qualifying. In the race, the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga) had run in the lead from pole position. Meanwhile, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC (Takeshi Tsuchiya) that had come into this race as the ranking leader and starting from 6th position on the grid was now struggling to hold that position and elected for an early routine pit stop with the strategy of running the second half without a tire change. This strategy proved successful and brought them up to tail the leading No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Yuichi Nakayama) in the late stages of the race. With excellent driving by Takamitsu Matsui, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC finally passed the TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT and went on that way to take its second win of the season.

With this win, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC pair of Tsuchiya and Matsui claimed the GT300 class Drivers championship as well. The Team championship also went to No. 25 VivaC team TSUCHIYA.

Winner and Champion Comments

GT500 Class

Heikki Kovalainen
“This was an amazing weekend for us. I am grateful to the team and Lexus/Toyota for the wonderful car they prepared for us. Of course, another big reason for our success was that Kohei [Hirate] won us the pole position. In the final stages of the race I was struggling a bit as the tire wore down, but I worked to keep them from deteriorating seriously in hopes of being able to pull away again at the very end. In the end, everything went according to our race strategy. I am very happy to have gotten this first win and the championship title at the same time.”

Kohei Hirate

“We were finally able to win [with this team]. Of course I am happy to have won the championship as well, but more than anything, I wanted to end the season with a win, and I am very happy that goal was realized. I am grateful for the support we received from Lexus, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, Bridgestone and, of course, our team. Today, I pushed hard from the morning qualifying. So, I was able to follow up on Heikki’s pole win yesterday with my own today and help us keep the good momentum. It is really great to have been able to end the season with a big win.”

GT300 Class

No.25 VivaC 86 MC
Takeshi Tsuchiya
“It makes me very happy that we were able to win and take the championship. We chose the same tires as yesterday, and since they weren’t effective yesterday, we gambled [with some new settings]. What’s more, it was great to see how cool Takamitsu [Matsui] was [as he caught up with the leader]. I hope we can continue to bring up young drivers like him. There was such a confusion of things happening today, but now I am really happy with the way things went.”

Takamitsu Matsui

“It feels really great to have won the race and taken the championship. Having this chance to race together with Takeshi [Tsuchiya]-san, I have been able to absorb a lot. I am really happy to have been able to win the championship with this team. Of course, I can’t let myself be satisfied with things as they are now. I want to take this opportunity to try to improve and become a better competitor. Anyway, I am just so happy now to have won the championship with a victory in the race today.”


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