The Chang SUPER GT RACE, Round 4 of the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was run on July 1th at the Chang International Circuit (4,554m × 66 laps) in Buriram, Thailand. In the GT500 class, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 driven by Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi came from 3rd position on the grid to take the win. In the GT300 class, the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R driven by Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda was the winner.
On qualifying day, a squall had hit before the qualifying started, and despite the fact that the rain had stopped before the sessions began, the track remained wet, making for tough conditions. On this race day there where clouds overhead, but the blue southern sky also showed through and the race was run in fair weather.
The race started at exactly 3:00 in the afternoon local time. After a good start from pole position, the No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Hideki Mutoh) led the race, followed by Heikki Kovalainen in the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500. With its stronger momentum, the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 finally took over the lead on the 19th lap and began to pull away from the pack. Replacing the MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT as it fell back, it was now another LEXUS LC500 car, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Felix Rosenqvist) that gave chase to the DENSO KOBELCO car in the lead. A gap of about three seconds separated the two LC500s until they returned to the pit for their routine pit stop.
With fast pit work, both cars returned to the race with their positions unchanged. But now, Kamui Kobayashi in the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 had the WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima) right on his tail, and a fierce battle for the lead ensued. Closing on these two lead cars from behind came the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN LC500 (Yuji Kunimoto) and the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Yuhi Sekiguchi), to make it a battle for the lead between four Lexus cars. At one point, Sekiguchi in the au TOM’S that had been charging hard and fast managed to pass the WAKO’S 4CR and close the gap on Kobayashi in the leading DENSO KOBELCO. But this fierce battle was to come to an unexpected end on the last lap. The au TOM’S ran out of gas and came to a stop! With this, a relieved Kobayashi in the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 Cruised home to take his first-ever GT500 win. For his teammate Kovalainen, it was his third win and the first for this newly teamed pair of former F1 drivers. For the LC500 it was the first win of the season. What’s more 2nd and 3rd place also went to the WAKO’S 4CR LC500 and the WedsSport ADVAN LC500, to give the LC500 a sweep of the podium. Best finisher among the Honda NSX-GT cars was the MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Daisuke Nakajima driving the second stint) in 5th place, and the best finishing NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 was the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/Jann Mardenborough) in 6th place.
In the GT300 class race, Richard Lyons in the No. 21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS got a good start from 2nd position on the grid to take the lead soon after the start and started to run away from the pack, but machine trouble resulting from a collision with another car eventually forced him to drop out of the race. Taking over the lead after that was the No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Shinichi Takagi), but with the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) following close behind. After the routine pit stops were completed, the GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka) had moved into the lead and went on that way to the win. Finishing 2nd was the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga/Kohei Hirate). Coming in 3rd was the No. 60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Hiroki Yoshimoto/Ritomo Miyata).
GT500 Race Winners
No.39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500
“By winning here at this circuit and by winning teamed with Kamui [Kobayashi]-san has made this a very good weekend. Coming into this season was like being on a roller coaster ride, and we had the worst possible race at the season opener at Okayama. After having an OK race at Fuji, I made a mistake in the last round at Suzuka that spoiled the race for us. So, I am very happy that we were able to win today.”
“This was my first time racing on this track, and because I wasn’t able to run in the race at Suzuka and was not entered at Fuji, this is my first time racing in this car since the opening round at Okayama. This having been the case, before we got here I honestly didn’t think we were going to win. So, I’m happy that we have won and very grateful to the team that worked so hard and to Heikki [Kovalainen]-san.”
GT300 Race Winners
No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R
“This time, the condition of the car was very good from the moment we started running, and the match between the car and the tires was especially good, so I felt confident right from the practice sessions. And that good feeling was verified with this good result. The 2018 model GT-R was said to be fast from the beginning, but until now we hadn’t had any easy races. Still, despite that, the team had all worked hard together, and I believe today’s win is the result of those efforts. I am very happy that we won.”
“This race today has been my 100th SUPER GT race. It feels great to get this win on such a momentous occasion. With the FIA GT3 cars there are some that do well on certain tracks and others that don’t. It had been said that the GT-R was well suited to this track, and when I started running here the car’s condition did seem to be good. I ran the first stint this time and I was able to stay calm as I worked to the front. On the second stint, Hiranaka-san worked hard and we were able to get the first win for the GT-R this season.”
Source. Super GT