The FUJI GT 500km RACE, Round 2 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563m x 110 laps) in Shizuoka Pref. on May 4th. The GT500 class race was won by the pole-starting No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 driven by Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura. For a Lexus team this was the first victory on their home track since 2013. In the GT300 class, the winner was the No. 51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3 driven by Yuichi Nakayama and Sho Tsuboi. This was the first victory for the Lexus RC F GT3 and gave Lexus a double victory in the two classes.
With fine weather blessing race day in Japan’s Golden Week holidays, a large crowd of some 58,000 fans flocked to Fuji Speedway to watch the action. At 2:10 in the afternoon things got moving in grand style with the parade lap led by nine Shizuoka Prefectural motorcycle police and five patrol cars, followed after one circle of the track by the formation lap and then the long-awaited start of the 110-lap race.
After the start it was the pole-starting No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa) that began to build up a lead over the pack. The No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) that started from 2nd position on the grid was soon passed by the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (James Rossiter) and the No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen) and this put three Lexus cars in the lead.
With the race distance for this round a long 500 km, all of the teams would be required to make two routine pit stops. The leading Lexus machines began to make their first routine pit stops from the 33rd lap. These stops brought no changes in the lead order, as the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 continued to run in the front. After taking the wheel from Tachikawa, the second stint driver, Hiroaki Ishiura, further extended the team’s lead. The battle for 2nd place between the No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Kohei Hirate) and the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 intensified. It was the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 that would emerge to take second place, but in the process it caused a collision for which it would be penalized. After that, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Andrea Caldarelli) and then the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) both passed the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) to give the Lexus cars the same kind of dominance they enjoyed in the opening round of the season. Meanwhile, however, the No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 sustained damage in a collision with a GT300 car that caused it to fall back in the pack.
The teams began to make their second routine pit stop from around the 71st lap. All of the leading teams performed their stops without mishap and there was no change in the lead order. With Tachikawa now in the drivers seat again, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 went on to take the checkered flag first without ever once having given up the lead. This victory moved Yuji Tachikawa into a tie for most GT wins ever with 18. It was the first win for the LEXUS TEAM ZENT CERUMO since the Suzuka round of the 2016 season. Finishing 2nd was the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima/Andrea Caldarelli), and 3rd place went to the winner of the opening round, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy), giving Lexus team a sweep of the podium just as in the opening round. This was the first time that a Lexus team had won at their home track of Fuji Speedway since 2013. The 4th-place winner and fastest among the GT-R teams was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R. The best finish for a Honda team was the 6th-place of the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT.
In the GT300 class race, the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG built up a lead in the early stages followed by the No. 11 GAINER TANAX AMG GT3 in 2nd place. Closing the gap on them from behind, however, was the No. 51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama/Sho Tsuboi) with an extended first stint. The No. 51 team went on to employ a successful strategy of shortening their second pit stop to grab the first win ever for the Lexus RC F GT3. As for the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG, two incidents of tire trouble caused them to miss out on a finish near the front. The No. 11 GAINER TANAX AMG GT3 (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Bjorn Wirdheim) took 2nd place, and 3rd place went to the No. 33 D’station Porsche (Tomonobu Fujii/Sven Muller), a team managed by former U.S. Major League pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki.
No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500
“I am really glad that we got a win for the first time in some while here at Fuji. It has always been said that we were strong at Fuji, but we weren’t able to win here for the past three years, and I was worried that I was beginning to feel embarrassed about losing my title as the “Fuji Meister.” I want to say how grateful I am to the Lexus development team for making us such a great car and to our team for tuning it so well and to my teammate (Hiroaki) Ishiura.”
“It is good that we won. Today, I think (Yuji) Tachikawa’s stint after the start was the most difficult (in terms of conditions) of the race, but he bore with it and turned over the car to me with a lead for my stint. In my stint, I was able to run at a good pace from the first lap out of the pit, so I felt that things were going well. We worked on the car’s development with the strong feeling that we wanted to win at Fuji again. So, I’m really happy that we won today.”
No. 51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3
“I am very happy that we were able to win here at Lexus’ home track. In the opening round we lacked speed, so we thought that we would have a difficult time here at Fuji if something didn’t change. But, Bridgestone developed some outstanding tires for us. The result in yesterday’s qualifying was disappointing, but today we had the performance we needed and we were able to run a good race.”
“I drove the second stint and my job was to get the car back in good position for (Yuichi) Nakayama-san for the last stint. That was all I was thinking about. So, I pushed hard from the beginning of my stint and the tires and the machine kept performing well without fail. That enabled me to run at a good pace and turn the car over to Nakayama-san again with more of a lead. It was really great.”
Source. Super GT