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KEEPER TOM’S LC500 WINS CHANG SUPER GT RACE FROM POLE POSITION

The Chang SUPER GT RACE, Round 7 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was run on October 8th at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit (4,554m × 66 laps). In the GT500 class, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 driven by Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy ran from pole position to win the race. In the GT300 class, the No. 51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3 driven by Yuichi Nakayama and Sho Tsuboi was the winner.

Buriram dawned with blue skies this day, but just before the race’s 3:00 start while the GT cars were lined up on the staring grid, a strong rain began to fall. Although it quickly came to a stop, the track surface was now wet, so most of the cars changed to wet tires and the race was started after a two-lap Safety Car run.

Leading the race in the early going was the pole-starting No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Nick Cassidy). It was followed by the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Jann Mardenborough) and the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi), but the GT500 class ranking leader, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) and two other cars had chosen to start on slick tires. They were waiting for the track to dry. After the 10th lap the track began to dry, and after the 13th lap one car after another returned to the pit to change to dry-use slick tires.

In the middle stages of the race the leaders were making their second pit stop, and when they finished their driver change and refueling, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) had managed to keep the lead. Behind it, came the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima) that had waged a fierce battle with the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (now driven by Takashi Kogure in the second half) from the early stages of the race. The No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) that had been in 2nd position in the early going ended up taking more time than it should have in the pit work, dropping it back to 3rd position.

Hirakawa maintained his lead and ran on unthreatened to bring the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 home to victory with a lead of 12.121 seconds over 2nd place and thus won its second race of the season, following the victory at the opening round at Okayama. This win also raised their driver championship point total to 69, which means they will go into the final round of the season as ranking leader. Finishing the race in 2nd place was the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima/Andrea Caldarelli), which made them also 2nd in the ranking. Although it had run most of the final stages of the race in 3rd place, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) suffered engine trouble with just two laps remaining. This allowed the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Takashi Kogure) to finish 3rd to the cheers of the cheering section from the local Keihin organization. The No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) that had led the ranking through the previous race, only managed to get two points this time for finishing 9th, dropping it to 3rd place in the ranking.

In the GT300 class race, most of the teams also started the race on wet-use tires, most of the leading teams were ones that kept running on their rain tire after the track had dried waiting until the earliest possible timing for a driver change before returning to the pit for the full pit work, thus avoiding the need for a second pit stop. Among these, the first to make its pit stop was the No. 51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama/Sho Tsuboi), and it went on to take the class win. Finishing 2nd with the same strategy and thus moving up to the driver ranking lead was the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka). In the final round they will be looking to take their third championship title.

Winner Comments

GT500 class

No.37 KeePer TOM’S LC500
Ryo Hirakawa
“I am very happy that we were able to get the win running from pole position in this way. The rain just before the start had made us nervous about the tire choice, but when we started on wet-use tires, Nick [Cassidy] was able to run at a fast pace and build us a good margin of lead. The timing with which we changed to dry-use tires was also good, so I felt that luck was on our side. During the routine pit stop the team also did a great job working fast, and after getting back on the track I didn’t have to look at my rearview mirror at all. I could just look straight ahead and drive. It was truly a great weekend.”

Nick Cassidy
“This was really an amazing day. I want to thank Lexus for the great car they made us, and the team for the fast set-up they gave us, and Bridgestone for the fantastic performance of the tires they supplied us with. Today, we knew that the pit work would be very important, and the team did a really wonderful job. This was the best race I have ever experienced in SUPER GT.”

GT300 class

No.51 JMS P.MU LMcorsa RC F GT3
Yuichi Nakayama
“Bridgestone really prepared great tires for us, both the dry-use ones (used in the official practice session) and the wet-use ones (used in the previous day’s qualifying). Today we were able to start from the front row, and because of the rain that fell just before the start, we decided to start the race with the same wet-use tires we had used in the qualifying. The track dried out faster than it had in the qualifying, so we changed drivers to [Sho] Tsuboi after the minimum number of laps required. After that, I was just watching the race from the pit, but I was able to watch with assurance. I want to thank Tsuboi for the great job of driving he did for us.”

Sho Tsuboi
“As soon as we got out on the starting grid rain began to fall, and though we couldn’t really know what would happen after that, it turned out that the track quickly began to dry after the start, which made things difficult [on wet-use tires]. The timing of [Yuichi] Nakayama’s and my driver change and the tire change was very good, and as I went out on the track I was having to race against rivals that I couldn’t see. I was careful not to put too much wear on the tires and push hard when I could. When I saw the sign saying that there were 25 laps left, that felt very long to me, but I am glad that in the end I was able to get the win for us.”

Source. Super GT

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