The opening round of the 2022 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, the OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE took place on April 17th the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3,703m×82laps). Over the circuit were clear skies and on the track the competition was intense. Both in the GT500 class race and the GT300 class the winners were the same as last year, with the No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra (Kazuya Oshima/Kenta Yamashita) winning the GT500 race and the No. 56 REALIZE NISSAN MECHANIC CHALLENGE GT-R victorious in the GT300 class.
The race started at 2:00 in the afternoon. Starting from pole position, the No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra (Kazuya Oshima) was challenged at first by the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra (Yuhi Sekiguchi) but gradually pulled away to open up a lead over the field. Meanwhile, a fierce battle developed between following group, from which the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO GR Supra (Yuji Tachikawa) emerged from the 17th lap to claim 3rd position. From there, Tachikawa would be chased by the No. 100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Tadasuke Makino) and the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL Z (Bertrand Baguette).
In the second half of the race, the leading car No. 14 (Kenta Yamashita) was running strongly in the lead with a margin of over 12 seconds. But there were big changes in the order of the field from 2nd-place downward, as car No. 12 (Kazuki Hiramine) moved up into 2nd place due to the timing of its pit stop and some fast pit work. But entering the final stages of the race, car No. 12’s pace slowed, and it was passed in succession by car No. 100 (Naoki Yamamoto) and car No. 38 (Hiroaki Ishiura). Then on the 68th lap of the race, a GT300 class car came to a stop on the track and a Full Couse Yellow (FCY) restriction was called. When the race was restarted it resulted in fierce battles around the track, with the result that the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH Z (Tsugio Matsuda) that had battled steadily up from a 9th position start to 4th position finally moved into 3rd position. On the 77th lap, a GT300 car came to a stop on the track once again and the FCY restriction was again enacted, but aided by its margin of lead, the No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra (Kazuya Oshima/Kenta Yamashita) was able to keep its lead and take the checkered flag and the Round 1 victory. Finishing in 2nd place was the No.100 STANLEY NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino), while 3rd place went to the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH Z (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli). This meant that all three makers were represented on the winners’ podium in the first race of the 2022 series.
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting 2021 class champions, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi) started out in the lead, but it would later be passed by the No. 56 REALIZE NISSAN MECHANIC CHALLENGE GT-R (Kiyoto Fujinami). After the routine pit stops, car No. 56 (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) was able to maintain its lead and run on to its second consecutive victory at Okayama with a more than 14-sec. margin over the No. 18 UPGARAGE NSX GT3 (Takashi Kobayashi/Kakunoshin Ohta). Fishing 3rd was the No. 65 LEON PYRAMID AMG (Naoya Gamou/Takuro Shinohara). (Spectators: 12,500 on April 17(race day) / 6,600 on the 16th (qualifying day)
No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra
“It was really tense for me again this year (wry smile) because the car’s condition was good but since we hadn’t been able to do any tests over the long distance that Kenta [Yamashita] had to run in the second half, I want to thank him for being able to manage the tire wear so well to the end.”
“During the second FCY period, the distance to the car in 2nd place had been reduced(?) – After the FCY restart, the car in front of me did a half-spin and I was unable to avoid hitting it. That cost me some time. But I was still able to maintain a good pace and the 17-sec. margin of lead that Oshima-san had built up for us (in the first half) helped me hold out and get the win.”
No. 56 REALIZE NISSAN MECHANIC CHALLENGE GT-R
“During the off-season we felt bad because we had been unable to take our second consecutive championship title. That is the feeling we had going into this opening round. I feel so good that we have been able to win here at Okayama like we did last year. Although we came through the qualifying in 5th position, both the team and Yokohama Tire gave us such a good car set-up and such good tires that I was able to push hard in the race with complete confidence. I really want to thank everyone.”
Joao Paulo de Oliveira
“I’m sure that Fujinami-san had a hard time in the first half. But he did such a good job with the tire management and made some great overtakes of other cars for us. Watching his performance, I was able to think about how to compete in the second half and everything went well and enabled us to win. I am really happy about this.”
Source. Super GT