The FUJI GT 500km RACE, Round 2 of the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563 m x 110 laps) in Shizuoka Pref. on May 4th. The GT500 class race was won on overall team strength by the 3rd-position grid starting No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli in a come-from-behind victory aided by fast pit work. In the GT300 class, the winner racing from pole position was the No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 driven by Shinichi Takagi and Sean Walkinshaw, taking their second consecutive Fuji Speedway win.
In contrast to yesterday’s uncertain weather, race day brought blue skies and a clear view of Mt. Fuji to be enjoyed by a large crowd of some 55,000 spectators. At 2:40 in the afternoon, the Parade Lap led by nine motorcycle police and four patrol cars of the Shizuoka Prefectural Police and then a Formation Lap, the 110-lap race got underway.
Leading from the start was the pole-sitting No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa), but that lead was soon taken away by the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) that got a fast start from a 3rd-position grid spot to pass the two cars in front. As the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R ran in the lead, the 5th-position grid started No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen) closed in from behind and on the 23rd lap succeeded in passing MOTUL AUTECH GT-R to take the lead. This being a 500-km race, all the cars needed to make two routine pit stops with driver changes. The DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 maintained the lead after the first pit stop, with the rookie Sho Tsuboi now at the wheel and running strong to hold that lead until the second routine pit stop.
However, the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) maintained a firm hold on 2nd place waiting for the one chance that he expected to come eventually. Then, thanks to some fast pit work by the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R pit crew, when the second pit stop was over the team had taken over the lead. From here, Quintarelli now again at the wheel of the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R made a last spurt that left the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Kovalainen) falling back gradually. Running on that way, the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R was the first to take the checkered flag and the win at the end of the 110-lap race. For Tsugio Matsuda it was his 20th win and extended his own record for most wins.
In the GT300 class, Shinichi Takagi in the pole-starting No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 got a good start and began to open up a lead over the rest of the field. His teammate Sean Walkinshaw held the fast pace all through the second stint of the race. The No. 55 team was also aided by luck, such as when the 2nd-place No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuya Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi) developed machine trouble mid-race that forced it to retire from the competition. When Takagi got in the driver’s seat again for the third and final stint of the race, he was running alone clear of the field and went on to take the win for the ARTA BMW M6 GT3. This was the second consecutive pole-to-finish victory at Fuji Speedway for the ARTA BMW M6 GT3. For Takagi, this was his 19th GT career win and made him the record holder for most GT300 class wins. Finishing 2nd was the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga/Kohei Hirate), while 3rd place went to the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda).
GT500 Race Winners
No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
“I am very happy that I have been able to extend my record for most wins in the GT500 class. Before the start, I was afraid that Tachikawa-san would come up to tie me in this record. Nearly half of the 20 wins have been with Ronnie [Quintarelli]-san as my teammate, and that is one of the biggest reasons for this record, and I think that luck has been with me too. I don’t want to let up now, though, but press on to 25 wins and beyond.”
“The car’s condition was very good, and it had the performance to win pole position in yesterday’s qualifying. But I pushed too hard and failed to win it, so I came into today’s race motivated by that regret. At Okayama I had that [jumped start penalty] mistake, so this time I was careful not to jump the start (grimace). But I was able to react well to the start signal and gain in position. A number of things happened along the way, but in the end with that margin (over 2nd place) I was able to stay calm as I drove. I am glad we got this win.”
GT300 Race Winners
No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3
“I’m just happy to have won. The fact is we hadn’t done a long-distance test with the tires we used today. So, when the race started with the track surface temperature at 40℃ I was worried about the performance dropping in the long run. But in the early going I was able to pull away from the field and in the second half of the stint the performance didn’t drop much. The next round is at Suzuka where our team and car don’t have a good performance record, so I don’t know if a win here [and the resulting weight handicap at Suzuka] will be good in terms of the title race. But the Bridgestone tires have been so good that we got this unexpected win (wry laugh).”
“Today was a good day for us. Takagi-san ran so well in the first stint that all I had to concentrate on in my stint was to maintain the margin of lead he gave me. I had a bit of trouble in warming up the tires, but once they were warmed up they gave me the performance I hoped for, so in the end I was able to maintain the lead margin and pass it on to Takagi-san. I am very happy that we won.”
Source. Super GT