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The MOTEGI GT GRAND FINAL, Round 8 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the Motegi Twin Ring circuit (lap = 4.801 km x 53 laps) in Tochigi Pref. on November 12 (Sun.). In the GT500 class, the race winner was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli. The winner of the GT500 class championship title was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 with drivers Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy who finished today’s race in 2nd place. Both Hirakawa and Cassidy are 23 years of age, making them the youngest title winners ever in the GT500 class. In the GT300 class race, the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG driven by Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou won their second victory of the season. The GT300 class season championship title went to the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG team drivers Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka who finished today’s race in 3rd place.

Race day at Twin Ring Motegi was blessed with fair weather. The final race of the season started on schedule at 1:30 in the afternoon. Participating in the pre-race parade lap were five motorcycle police and two patrol cars of the Tochigi Prefectural Police joined this time by three cars from Germany’s Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series visiting in a special Germany-Japan exchange.

Then when the race finally got underway, the pole-sitting No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Quintarelli) got a good start and began to pull away from the pack. Meanwhile, on the fourth lap of the race, the season ranking leader, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Cassidy) starting from 3rd position on the grid, passed the 2nd grid-position starter, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500, to move up in position to 2nd place. If No. 37 were able to hold this position to the finish, it would win the season title even if No. 23 GT-R won the race. Elsewhere in the field, the 2nd-ranked car No. 6 had dropped far back in the pack, owing in part to being hit from behind be another car.  Leading the race from start to finish was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R that had started the race ranked 3rd on the season. In the second half of the race, with Tsugio Matsuda now at the wheel, No. 23 continued to run on in the lead unchallenged. If the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) running in second position were to drop to a 3rd-place finish, it would mean a big come-from-behind title win for car No. 23. But the pair of 23-year-old drivers of car No. 37 showed no sigs of flinching, as the ran on alone in 2nd place. Eventually, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R ran away to a pole-to-win race, the first of the season for the Nissan GT-R. The No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 finished in 2nd place to win the Drivers championship title for the pair of Hirakawa and Cassidy, while the team title also went to the LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S. Finishing 3rd in the day’s race was the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa/Hiroaki Ishiura).

In the GT300 class race, the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Tatsuya Kataoka) starting from pole position, and also holding a 10-point lead in the season ranking, lead in the early stages of the race. The No. 4 team was running on a race strategy that called for an early routine pit stop, but it turned out to disadvantage. In contrast, the 2nd grid-position starting No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Shinichi Takagi to Sean Walkinshaw) and the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG (Haruki Kurosawa to Naoya Gamou) that held off making their pit stop as long as possible ended up battling for he lead in the second half, with the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG eventually taking the lead and racing on to their second win of the season. The No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi in the second half), which had dropped to 4th at one point, managed to recover for a 3rd-place finish in the race. This gave the No. 4 team the GT300 Drivers and Team championship titles.

Winner / Champion Comments

GT500 Race Winners

Tsugio Matsuda
“We got one more season ranking point from yesterday’s pole position win and today we were able to win the race. We actually came here to Motegi aiming to win the championship title, but since car No. 37 finished 2nd today, we fell short of winning the title by just 2 points and ended up 2nd in the ranking. But at the start of the season, the Lexus cars were dominating the top six places and had more than a 1-second/lap advantage over us, so I feel that we were finally able to win for the first time in this final round because the whole team came together and we worked to make progress on the machine-tire package. I want us to keep this flow going and come back next year to re-take the title.”

Ronnie Quintarelli
“At the start, my car was hit from behind by another car so hard that I thought I might spin out, and it made me think for a moment that today’s race was over for us. But the tires weren’t punctured and the car’s balance wasn’t bad, so it was great to find that it still ran well. Considering the (difficulties with the) car’s performance at the start of this season, I think we did great to come back this well. I feel some disappointment that we didn’t get the championship title, but by getting today’s win we were able to end the season on a good note.”

GT500 Champions

No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500
Ryo Hirakawa
“I thought that if we got this championship title I would be going wild, but in fact I was just so relieved when I got the checkered flag, and to tell the truth, I am having trouble finding words right now. We won this title because the whole team came together and worked well with no mistakes, so I am just want to express my appreciation to everyone.”

Nick Cassidy
“As Hirakawa-san just said, all I can say is that I am relieved. This is only my second season in GT500 but the team has put their trust in me. So, I worked hard to live up to that trust. All year it was a season of holding back when we needed to hold back and pushing hard when we needed to push. Today it was a race where we needed to conserve, but it went well and was a good race.”

GT300 Race Winners

Haruki Kurosawa
“All season, Mercedes Benz and AMG and Bridgestone took good care of us. They gave us a truly good car and truly good tires. We went to Bridgestone tire this season and started the series with a new package, but Naoya (Gamou) has grown into a very good driver for us and we were able to compete without mistakes on the part of us drivers or the team, and in the end we were able to get this win and finish the year ranked 2nd. At times this year it felt like we were groping in the dark, but next season will be our second with Bridgestone and I think we will it will make us stronger.”

Naoya Gamou
“I think that for me, today’s race was a good one. When I passed car No. 55, it looked like its tire condition wasn’t good and the car went wide on the last corner, so I went strongly to the in-side and pulled even and managed to get past it. Looking back on this year, there are a number of things that I think I made progress in and I think it all came together today to contribute to this win. There were some things that could have gone better and we ended up ranking second, but I think we have the best car and tire package.”

GT300 Champions

Nobuteru Taniguchi
“To tell the truth, I feel more relief than happiness. We came to Motegi as the ranking leader, but in fact we were struggling and had no confidence in our advantage at all. While our team happened to be in the best position, in fact we have been working hard to avoid the worst possible situations. Today as well, things turned bad and we had to work hard with a strategy of hanging on to finish 3rd, but in the end the result was fortunate and we got the championship.”

Tatsuya Kataoka
“I am very happy. Today, it turned out that our job was to run away from pole position and hold on, and because I was able to communicate well with the GT500 class drivers, I was in a very comfortable position to drive and get to the finish as hoped. We won in the opening round and then, by struggling through the development work, we were able to win the championship.”

Source. Super GT


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