The MOTEGI GT 250km RACE, Round 8 of the 2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit (lap = 4.801 km x 53 laps) in Tochigi Pref. on November 3 (Sun.). In the GT500 class, the race winner was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy, but the season championship title went to the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 that finished 2nd, giving drivers Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita their first Drivers Championship title. In the GT300 class, the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R driven by Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda won the race, while the Drivers Championship title went to the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 pair of Shinichi Takagi and Nirei Fukuzumi.
The venue for the final round of the 2019 season, Twin Rings Motegi, was blessed with fair skies on race day. In the early running, the pole-starting No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima) ran out in the lead followed by the two title contenders, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Nick Cassidy) and the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima), with the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) and the No.17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi) also joining in the fight up front. Emerging from these to take 2nd place was car No. 37. Meanwhile, top ranked car No. 6 fell back to 4th place, making its title hopes uncertain.
In the second half of the race, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) moved into the lead. Needing a 2nd-place finish to ensure its title win, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (Kenta Yamashita) aggressively put the pressure on the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Yuhi Sekiguchi). The side-by-side battle staged by these two cars was eventually won by Yamashita in car No. 6 to take the 2nd-place finish it needed.
With this 2nd-place finish, the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 pair of Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita won their first Drivers Championship title. The race was won by the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500. With this their LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S claimed the Team Championship title. The LEXUS LC500 cars that will be retired with this season ended up winning the top four places spectacularly in this, their final race. The top finishing Honda NSX-GT was the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Bertrand Bagette) that finished in 5th place. The top finisher among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 teams was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) that finished 8th.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting No.720 McLaren 720S (Seji Ara/Alex Palou) gradually lost position in the field while the 3rd-grid starting No. 65 LEON PYRAMID AMG (Naoya Gamou/Togo Suganami) adopted an no-tire-change strategy that put it in the lead in the second half until it suddenly came to a stop on the last lap of the race. This gave the race win to the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/ Hironobu Yasuda).
In the title race, the top ranked No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/Nirei Fukuzumi) that started the race in 5th position and gradually moved up to finish in 4th place. With this, the ARTA pair of Takagi and Fukuzumi became the GT300 champions.
GT500 Class Winner
No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500
“The first lap out went well, but after that I couldn’t keep up the pace. While I was running behind car No. 36, the grip in the front was not good. After I got in the lead I had a good pace and I was able to pull away from the pack. In the end we were able to win the race, but it was really disappointing that we couldn’t win the season title and it is hard for me to put in words how I feel now.”
“It was a really difficult race. We started from 4th position on the grid and all of the cars in front of us were strong, but I was able to get a perfect start. Our aim this time was to find the right timing for out pit stop, and that went well so we were able to take the lead. I think our car was the fastest one out there today.”
GT500 Class Champion
No.6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500
“It seems that the tires weren’t well enough warmed up, so the first lap was really tough. I was very frustrated, but I knew I had to change my mindset and do the best I could and make up the loss afterwards. In the second half, Kenta [Yamashita] did a fantastic job of moving up. I’m really grateful to him.”
“This was a very special race and I came into it with a determination that we really had to win the title. Since I had anticipated the situation where car No. 36 would be trying to block us, I had the feeling that I couldn’t be beaten there, and I am very glad that I was successful in the end. The shock when car No. 36 and I collided as I was passing it was really strong and I was worried that it might cause the car to start vibrating, so I was glad that it held out for me to the end.”
GT300 Class Winner
No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R
“On this race weekend, the feeling of the car was very good from the beginning. There were worries because we hadn’t been able to do any tests at all about the new Dunlop tires we were using, but they felt good to drive on from the very start. In the race, car No. 65 was always fast, so I thought there wasn’t much chance for us, but as I drew near our team platform I suddenly found it so close that I accelerated again and was able to pass it and take the checkered flag first.”
“Although we were starting from 4th position on the grid, I was confident that I could gain ground in the early stages of the race. I was behind the Maclaren (No. 720) and car No. 56, but I was able to get past them when the collided with each other. After that, No. 56 caught up with me again, but it was OK because we were running at the same pace. We made our pit stop at the same time as No. 56 and we changed drivers to Hiranaka-san. In the end we were lucky (when No. 65 came to a stop) and were able to win the race. But I am very Happy because until now we have never won two races in the same season.”
GT300 Class Champion
No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3
“I am very glad to have won such a great championship title after driving for our team manager Aguri Suzuki for 17 years. I am very thankful for this. The whole team worked as one to set up this machine and I am glad that we were able to win points in every race of the season. I think that is why we were rewarded with this championship. I am just filled with gratitude.”
“I’m relieved. Car No. 96 (the championship rival that put the pressure on us) was very fast. We were fortunate that No. 96 had trouble in the qualifying, which helped us win the title. And thanks to the great efforts of [Shinichi] Takagi-san and the team we were able to run strongly all season, and I think that is why we won this championship. I am simply very happy with this result.”
Source. Super GT