The OKAYAMA GT 300 Km RACE, opening round of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km x 81 laps) on April 9th. In the GT500 race, the 3rd-place qualifying No.37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy) gave a first victory to the new LC500. In the GT300 class, the GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka) got the win.
Despite the cloudy skies, the feared rain never appeared as some 17,300 spectators gathered to watch today’s race that began with a one-lap parade led by two police bikes of the Okayama Prefectural Police at 2:34 in the afternoon. This was followed by a one-lap formation run of the competing cars, but it was interrupted when the pole position No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT and two other Honda NSX-GT machine came to a stop. This brought out the Red Flag to stop the race start in an unexpected upset.
This put the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima) at the front to start the race in the lead, but by the third lap it was overtaken by the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Nick Cassidy). After that, No. 37 was followed by two other LC500 machines. At the end of the 37th lap in the middle stages of the race, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 made its routine pit stop and changed drivers from Cassidy to Ryo Hirakawa. The No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 also made its pit stop and changed drivers from Oshima to Andrea Caldarelli. In the latter half of the race, the two LC500 machines continued their battle for with the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 in the lead. As this contest continued, there was a crash by a GT300 class car on the 53rd lap. To ensure overall safety and recover the car, the Safety Car came out on the track to control the race. After the race was restarted, there was virtually no margin any more between the leading cars, which made the competition more fierce. Hirakawa’s driving in the leading No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 held off the attack by Cardarelli in the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 to the end and assured its victory in the season’s opening round. It was also a big first victory of course for the new LC500 in its debut race.
This was Hirakawa’s third GT500 victory and the first for his teammate Cassidy. Second place went to the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 and 3rd place to the 2016 champion No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen/Kohei Hirate) in a race that saw all six of the top places swept by Lexus LC500 machines.
The No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) finished in 7th place, the top among the Nissan GT-R machines. For the Honda NSX –GT teams, the No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT led with a 9th-place finish.
In the GT300 class, the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Tatsuya Kataoka) that had qualified 2nd managed to pass the pole-starting No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG (Haruki Kurosawa) in the early stages of the race to take the lead. In the second half of the race, Nobuhiro Taniguchi maintained and then expand the lead for the GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG despite losing the team’s margin of lead when the Safety Car was called in to control the race and went on to win the team’s first victory since the second round of the 2014 season at Fuji.
No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500
“I think today’s was an unfortunate race for our Honda rivals, for us it was a perfect race. The decisive point came when Cassidy was able to skillfully pass the leader soon after the start. After that, I was able to take over with us still in the lead. I feel that this was a victory for everyone, for Lexus who prepared this wonderful machine for us, for the team that set it up so well and for Bridgestone who gave us such good tires.”
“I still can’t believe that we won! But Lexus prepared a great car for us and it had been in good condition from the pre-race test, so I was hopeful that we could win. In my stint, I got a perfect start, so I was able to run with confidence. Our driver in the second half, Hirakawa, is very fast, and I knew that this is also a good circuit for him. But I still can’t believe how this race went just as I thought it would.”
No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG
“We were ready to win before we even got to the circuit this time. That is the kind of race this was. Even though we weren’t able to get pole position, but that was because we chose hard tires for the qualifying in order to give us an advantage in the race. If we had only been concerned about winning pole position, we might have chosen a different strategy. Anyway, the machine and the tires were both outstanding. That is all there is to say. This was truly a race that we won because of the machine and the tires.”
“The flow really wasn’t going well for us coming into this race, but we were able to win because of the strengths of the machine and the tires. We have won a good number of races until now, but never have we had such a good machine as today. I am really grateful to the team for setting up the machine so well and to Yokohama for the great tires they prepared for us.”
Source. Super GT