The AUTOPOLIS 300km RACE, Round 6 of the 2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the AUTOPOLIS (one lap 4,674m x 65 laps) in Oita Prefecture on September 8. In a race that saw the lead change numerous times as rain fell mid-race, the winner in the GT500 class was the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen/Yuichi Nakayama), while in the GT300 class, the win went to the No. 60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Hiroki Yoshimoto/Ritomo Miyata) that came from behind dramatically to claim victory.
Last year the AUTOPOLIS race was held in the second half of October as Round 7 of the series. This time, as Round 6 run in early September, and all though it wasn’t influenced by the passing Typhoon No. 13, rain was predicted for the morning of race day. When the race started at 2:30 in the afternoon, there were clouds overhead but also patches of blue.
In the early stages of the race, the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi) pulled away at a high pace and opened up a considerable lead over the field. Chasing in 2nd place was the REALIZE CORPORTATION ADVAN GT-R (Mitsunori Takaboshi) involved in a fierce battle with the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima) while slightly behind them came the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen).
Entering the middle stages of the race, the rain that had been predicted began to fall. What’s more, it fell at times on only one part of the track and at different strengths that made it difficult for the teams to decide when to change to rain tires. In the final stages of the race, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Yuich Nakayama) that had been quick to change to rain tires took the lead with the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Bertrand Baguette) giving chase. In the last few laps the rain had stopped and the track began to dry out, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) that had continued to run of slick tires made a dramatic drive toward the front from 7th position. In the end, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 was able to hold out for the win, giving the LEXUS LC500 a 5th consecutive win. Finishing 2nd was the No.17 KEIHIN NSX-GT. Third place went to the charging No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500. The top finishing NISSAN GT-R was the No. 24 Realize corporation ADVAN GT-R (driven in the second half by Jann Mardenborough) in 9th place.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC (Kimiya Sato) was unable to hold the lead as it changed hands a number of times in the early stages of the race. After the third Safety Car appearance, it was the No. 88 MANEPA LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Takashi Kogure) and the No. 720 McLaren 720S (Alex Palou) that battled for the lead But as the track began to dry out in the final stages of the race, it was Yoshimoto in the No. 60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3 (Hiroki Yoshimoto/Ritomo Miyata) that had continued to run of slick tires to charge forward dramatically from 7th position to take the victory. (Spectators: 17,300)
No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500
“It was tough conditions out there with the race changing from rain to dry. Everything changed after my stint and all I could do was pray for luck. Things have been tough for us this season, but I am really glad we got this win.”
“When I was ready to enter the race there was a big traffic jam in the pit area and collisions took place. But he time our engineer Tanaka chose for the pit stop was perfect. Everyone on the team did their jobs well, so I really feel it was the team’s strength that got us this far. I ran trying to save wear on the tires for when the competition caught up with us at the end. I have competed on Bridgestone tires in GT300 as well, so this time I was able to trust in the tires and hold off for the win.”
No.60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3
“LM corsa has competed all this way with the LEXUS RC F GT3 since its development period, and it was a long and difficult time. It was Manager Akira Iida’s decision that we should race on with slick tires through the wet. And Ritomo [Miyata] got the car to me in good position. It surprised me how the weather and luck all could come together like this for a win. I want to congratulate everyone on the team. Thank you all (tears).
“I never thought things would turn out like this. I have been with this team all along since last year, with everyone working to get a wins, but it just never happened. Last year we finished 3rd in Thailand, but I think we could have won if I had been stronger. But it was concentrating on improving in each race that finally got us here, I believe. It turned out that the team’s strategy had been right and I was really relieved when it didn’t rain at the end.”
Source. Super GT