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KEEPER TOM’S GR SUPRA WINS OPENING SUPER GT ROUND

The Takanokono Hotel FUJI GT 300km RACE, round 1 of the 2020 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series was held on the afternoon of July 19 at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563m × 66 laps). That rain that had been reared never fell and the opening round of the 2020 season was held under fair skies. In the GT500 class, the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy) started from pole position and ran on to win unchallenged. This was a victory for the GR Supra GT500 in its debut race. In the GT300 class as well, victory went to the GR Supra-based car No. 52 SAITAMATOYOPETGB GR Supra GT (Hiroki Yoshida/Kohta Kawaai) for the team’s first win ever.

As countermeasures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the event was held without spectators and the qualifying was held on the morning of this same day as a “one-day race event.” While rain had been feared for the morning qualifying, it never appeared, so the qualifying could be run on a dry track. In the GT500 class Q1, the No.8 ARTA NSX-GT (Nirei Fukuzumi) delivered the top time in a course record. In Q2, the top time was recorded by Ryo Hirakawa in the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra to take pole position for the race. In the GT300 class Q2, pole position went to the No.65 LEON PYRAMID AMG (Naoya Gamou).

The ensuing race started at 3:00 in the afternoon. In the first lap there was a collision between the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki) and the No. 64 Modulo NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa) at the back of the GT500 class, which resulted in damage that forced car No. 12 to retire from the race.

At the front, the pole-starting No. 37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra (Nick Cassidy) managed to pull away at a good pace from the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Nirei Fukuzumi) and No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto) in 2nd and 3rd places respectively. After the 20th lap, car No. 37 had built up a lead of about 9 seconds over car No. 100 in second position. Moving up in 3rd and 4th places were two GR Supra cars, the No. 36 au TOM’S GR Supra (Sacha Fenestraz) and the No. 38 ZENT GR Supra (Yuji Tachikawa).

On the 36th lap, after the GT500 class cars had finished their routine pit stops, a GT300 spun out at the Dunlop Corner and came to a stop on the track. This brought out the Safety Car for the second time and eliminated the 19-second lead that car No. 37 (Ryo Hirakawa) had built up at the front. This gave car No. 36 (Yuhi Sekiguchi) that was now in 2nd position a chance to go for the lead. But, after the Safety Car withdrew and the race resumed, it was again No. 37 that pull away from the field in the lead. It was in that unchallenged position that the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra won the 66-lap race.

This gave the new GR Supra GT500 a win in the first race of its debut season. What’s more, it was followed by the No. 36 au TOM’S GR Supra and the No.14 WAKO’S 4CR GR Supra (Kazuya Oshima/Sho Tsuboi) in 2nd and 3rd places, while two more GR Supra teams filled out a sweep of the top five places in the race. Sixth place went to a Honda NSX-GT in the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino) and 7th place to a NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 team, the No. 3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R (Kohei Hirate/Katsumasa Chiyo).

In the GT300 class, it was the rookie Kohta Kawaai in the No. 52 SAITAMA TOYOPETGB GR Supra GT that started from 4th position on the grid who put on a spectacular show of driving to move up and take the lead of the on the 24th lap. After that, ace driver Hiroki Yoshida took the wheel of car No. 52, and despite losing his margin of lead with the appearance of the Safety Car, continued to hold the top position. From there he ran on to victory to give the new GR Supra GT300 a victory in its debut race. Second place went to the No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda) and 3rd to the No. 5 MACHSYAKEN GTNET MC86 MACH GO (Natsu Sakaguchi/Yuya Hiraki).

Winner Comments

GT500 class

No.37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra
Ryo Hirakawa
“When I took over for the second stint, I had a lead of nearly 20 seconds and I thought that it was the perfect format for a win, but then Safety Car came out. But still, I was able to concentrate and keep the lead to the end. I am very glad that we were able to give the GR Supra a debut win.”

Nick Cassidy
“Supra is Back!”It was really an amazing victory. During the off-season the team and everyone at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing really worked hard for us, and that is why we were able to get a debut win just like the LC500 before this.”

GT300 class

No.52 SAITAMATOYOPETGB GR Supra GT
Hiroki Yoshida
“Last year we came close to winning but never did, but since the change this year to the GR Supra, and with a new teammate, the team dealt with a number of new challenges. I thought it was difficult at first, but they really put together a good car for us and the Bridgestone tires were capable of hanging in there for us to the end, and also Kohta [Kawaai] stayed cool and ran well in his first SUPER GT race. This was truly a fantastic result.”

Kohta Kawaai
“Until now, it had taken me some time to get my first win in middle formula (FIA-F4), so I never imagined I could get a win in my first SUPER GT race. I owe this win to everyone on the team. I want to express my gratitude to you all.”

Source. Super GT

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