Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino head to this weekend’s Okayama season finale tied on points with Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS title rivals Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Nick Foster, while the GT4 championship will also be decided when Brian Lee and Hideto Yasuoka square off against Hiroaki Hatano and Shinya Hosokawa.
The bizarre series of events last time out at Sportsland SUGO have conspired to leave CarGuy Racing’s Ferrari and the #99 Triple Eight JMR Mercedes-AMG level pegging at the top of GT3 with a maximum of 50 points still available over the final two races in south-western Japan.
Mathematically, Naoki Yokomizo also remains in contention but requires a favour from the championship leaders to have any chance of overturning his current 29-point deficit. Winning GT3’s Silver Cup crown appears a more realistic prospect for Yogibo Racing’s full-season driver who leads Tanart Sathienthirakul and Kantadhee Kusiri (AAS Motorsport) by 32 points.
Elsewhere, AMAC Motorsport’s Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter remain firm favourites to clinch the GT3 Am crown thanks to their 43-point advantage over Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Mineki Okura (Reap Fueling Ambitions).
However, GT4 is wide open with two crews covered by six points and one more also still in contention. GTO Racing Team’s Lee and Yasuoka enjoy a slender advantage over their Team GMB rivals Hatano and Hosokawa, while newly crowned Fanatec Japan Cup Am champion Masayoshi Oyama (Akiland Racing) is 21 off top spot.
2022 GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE
Just one of the 13 various Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia and Fanatec Japan Cup overall and class drivers’ titles were decided before Okayama, which stages rounds nine and 10 this Saturday and Sunday.
Cozzolino and Kimura would already have one hand on GT3’s overall title had the latter not misjudged SUGO’s finishing line location, which dropped the Ferrari from first to third in sight of Race 2’s chequered flag. Equally, Ibrahim and Foster might still be ahead in the standings without the prince spinning out of fourth place on the penultimate lap.
The upshot is both crews are now tied on 108 points with two 60-minute races left at Okayama where 17 GT3 cars from 10 manufacturers – including new additions from Corvette and Lexus – are due to start.
Still, the slight advantage initially lies with Kimura and Cozzolino who would clinch the crown by winning Race 1 if Ibrahim and Foster failed to score a point. Although Race 2 results would make a tie still mathematically possible, the Ferrari’s greater number of third places – two to one – would be enough for #777’s crew to seal the championship on countback this Saturday afternoon.
That scenario appears unlikely given #99’s record of scoring points in all eight races held so far this year, while Kimura and Cozzolino must also serve a five-second Success Penalty during their pitstop for finishing third in SUGO’s second race.
Trouble for either car could give Yogibo’s Yokomizo a chance of fighting for the title in Race 2, although that relies on the Ferrari he shares with Kiyoto Fujinami scoring big on Saturday. That scenario certainly isn’t beyond the leading Silver Cup crew who clinched their first overall win of the season at SUGO.
They, and specifically Yokomizo, will also have one eye on the Silver Cup title which can be settled in Race 1 if the Ferrari beats Sathienthirakul and Kusiri’s AAS Porsche. Expect those two cars to share Okayama’s Race 1 front row, just as they did at SUGO, thanks to the series’ split qualifying format.
Meanwhile, GT3’s Pro-Am class is more clear cut than its overall championship despite the same two crews currently topping the charts. Ibrahim/Foster lead Kimura/Cozzolino by 14 points.
Equally, only a big turnaround will prevent Kimura and Cozzolino from sealing Fanatec Japan Cup’s overall and Pro-Am titles thanks to their 36-point lead over Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii who were the chief beneficiaries of CarGuy’s mistake in Race 2. However, that overall victory – which was only achieved in the final few metres – now sees D’station’s Aston Martin saddled with the maximum 15-second Success Penalty this Saturday.
But it’s all to play for in Fanatec Japan Cup’s GT3 Am class where three crews – Hamaguchi/Okura, Yusuke Yamasaki/Yorikatsu Tsujiko, and Tadao Uematsu/Yudai Uchida – are covered by 10 points.
Elsewhere, two manufacturers make their Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia debuts. Bingo Racing’s Corvette C7.R has never raced in the series despite making two appearances at the Suzuka 10 Hours, while K-tunes Racing’s Lexus RC F GT3 is a regular in Super GT and Super Taikyu but has yet to grace one of SRO’s Asia entry lists.
GT4, meanwhile, welcomes back the CREF Motorsport McLaren that last raced at Suzuka. However, it’s the battle for various class championships that will take centre stage this weekend.
As already explained, the overall full-season title fight features three contenders covered by 21 points. And two of those – Team GMB’s Hatano/Hosokawa and Akiland’s Oyama – are also in Fanatec Japan Cup championship contention.
OKAYAMA TIMETABLE (GMT +9)
Thursday 22 September
10:30 – 12:00: Paid Practice 1
13:50 – 15:20: Paid Practice 2
Friday 23 September
12:00 – 13:00: Free Practice
15:30 – 17:00: Official Practice & Bronze Test
Saturday 24 September
09:50 – 10:05: GT4 Qualifying 1
10:12 – 10:27: GT4 Qualifying 2
10:37 – 10:52: GT3 Qualifying 1
10:59 – 11:14: GT3 Qualifying 2
14:50 – 15:50: Race 1
Sunday 25 September
11:40 – 12:40: Race 2
SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
15s – #47 D’station Racing
10s – #5 Plus with BMW Team Studie
10s – #30 Porsche Center Okazaki (carried over from Fuji)
05s – #777 CarGuy Racing
15s – #71 Akiland Racing
10s – #14 GTO Racing Team
05s – #33 Team GMB
Source. SRO Motorsports Group