The SUZUKA 300km – FAN FESTIVAL – race, Round 3 of the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the Suzuka Circuit (one lap 5,807 m × 52 laps) in Mie Prefecture on May 20. In the GT500 class race, the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT driven by Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa went from pole position to take its first win of the season with out effectively giving up the lead once throughout the race. In the GT300 class race, the No. 96 K-tunes RC F GT3 driven by Morio Nitta and Yuichi Nakayama also won the race from pole position.
Though there were fairly strong winds, over Suzuka Circuit on this race day there were refreshing blue skies, making for a perfect day for race viewing. Before the start of the race a column of four police bikes and three patrol cars of the Mie Prefectural Police lead one parade lap promoting traffic safety. Then the 52-lap race got off to a start at 15:45.
At the start, the pole-sitting No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa) kept its position in the lead. By the fifth lap of the race, Izawa had run away to a roughly 5-sec. lead over the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Jenson button) in 2nd place. However, on the 14th lap the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen) crashed and came to a stop on the track, which brought out the Safety Car to halt the race and reduced No. 8’s lead to nothing. But when the race was restarted five laps later, Izawa once again pushed hard in the lead. Meanwhile, the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT made its routine pit stop early on the next lap, and sent it second-stint driver Naoki Yamamoto back out on the track in quick order. The No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT made its pit stop on the 24th lap and returned to the race still holding the lead. For a time, Yamamoto in the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT was closing in on Nojiri in the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT, but in the latter stages of the race Nojiri was able to pull away from car No. 100 to claim a perfect win from pole position. The No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT finished 2nd to give the Honda NSX-GT its second 1-2 finish, following the opening round of the season. Finishing 3rd was last year’s champion team, the No. 1 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy).
In the GT300 class race, the pole-sitting No. 96 K-tunes RC F GT3 (Morio Nitta) when out into the lead from the start. However, after the routine pit stop, No. 96 had given up the lead to the No. 0 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka) and No. 18 UPGARAGE 86 MC (Yuhki Nakayama/Takashi Kobayashi) that had opted for a no-tire-change strategy to reduce pit work time. But, having changed all four tires, the No. 96 K-tunes RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama) was able to chase them at a high pace and pass the two of them one after another to regain the lead. By the end of the race No. 96 was able to take the win with a big lead over the 2nd place No. 25 HOPPY 86MC (Takamitsu Matsui/Sho Tsuboi).
GT500 Race Winners
No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT
“On my first lap out of the pit after taking over from Izawa-san, the fact that I was able to defend our lead was a decisive point in the race. But with Yamamoto-san (No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT) chasing me from behind I was afraid that he would come up and try to pass me, because I have seen him race strongly like that many times. But I concentrated on pushing to the front. At one point he was closing in on me, but it seems that in the end we had the advantage.”
“Today I pushed hard from the start. But then the Safety Car came out and I realized anew that you can’t win SUPER GT races on speed alone. But somehow I was able to turn the car over to Nojiri-san with our lead in tact and he was able to keep that lead to end. I am very happy.”
GT300 Race Winners
No. 96 K-tunes RC F GT3
“I am very happy we got the win. In the last round Shinichi [Takagi] (No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3) moved ahead of me in the record for most GT300 class wins, and I never expected that I would be able to draw even with him again this quickly. After I turned over the wheel to Yuichi [Nakayama] for the second stint, I watched the whole rest of the race on the monitor screen and the pit was full of excitement.”
“When the Safety Car came out during Nitta-san’s stint I thought, “””Why does this have to happen to us at a time like this?”” But today our car’s performance was wonderful and we were able to come from behind to take the win. I think the reason we won today was the fact that we were able to go through the 130 R curve consistently at such a high speed 130R. I am grateful to the Lexus engineers for giving us such a great car.”
Source. Super GT