Buriram Super GT: LeMans Lexus holds on for first win since 2013
Team LeMans duo Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita fended off separate attacks from the two TOM’S Lexus cars to win the Thailand round of SUPER GT series.
For the most part, the race appeared to be a two-horse race between the pole-sitting LeMans Lexus and similar LC500 of #36 TOM’S pairing Kazuki Nakajima and Yuhi Sekiguchi.
Nakajima dispatched the slow-starting B-Max Nissan of Frederic Makowiecki early in the race and then took advantage of traffic to ease past the Bandoh Lexus of Yuji Kunimoto to move up to second.
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The recently crowned WEC champion then turned his attention to Oshima and the two sprinted clear of the field as the battle between the two raged on.
After an earlier failed attempt around the outside of turn 8, Nakajima finally dived past Oshima on lap 29 of 66 to take the lead of the race.
A lap after both simultaneously headed to the pits, with a fractionally faster stop by the LeMans team forcing Sekiguchi - now in Nakajima’s car - to slam the brakes and let Yamashita through in order to avoid an unsafe release.
With the mandatory stops done, the leading two cars resumed their battled up front, Sekiguchi pressuring Yamashita for the lead once again.
However, their battle was paused momentarily when the safety car had to be deployed for a single incident involving three Honda cars.
Jenson Button’s Kunimitsu Honda made contact with the Mugen NSX-GT of Daisuke Nakajima, while the ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri - which was running right behind - spun with a left-rear puncture presumably as a consequence of the same incident.
Cars of both Nakajima and Nojiri were left stranded on the track, requiring the intervention of a safety car.
At the restart, Nick Cassidy, running third in the #37 TOM’S after two quick moves, dived down the inside of Sekiguchi at the hairpin for second place.
However, Sekiguchi tried to hold around the outside at the exit of the corner, the two TOM’S Lexus cars making contact that pushed Sekiguchi over the kerbs and into the air.
Sekiguchi slipped down the order as a result, while Cassidy continued to chase down Yamashita for the lead.
On lap 45, Cassidy got a run on his LeMans rival at the back straight, but Yamashita held the inside line to retain the lead of the race.
After subsiding the initial challenge from Cassidy, Yamashita upped the pace to secure a first victory for the LeMans team since 2013.
Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa had to settle for second, with reigning Japanese F3 champion Sho Tsuboi and Kunimoto claiming third in all-Lexus podium lockout.
Kondo Nissan duo Jann Mardenborough and Mitsunori Takaboshi enjoyed their best run of the season in fourth, the two breaking a Lexus monopoly at the front of the field.
Yuichi Nakayama and Heikki Kovalainen were classified fifth in the Sard Lexus, ahead of the B-Max Nissan of Makowiecki and Kohei Hirate.
Honda endured its worst race of the year, with only the Nakajima NSX-GT of Narain Karthikeyan and Tadasuke Makino finishing inside the points.
All five Hondas fell to the back of the pack at the start, before their race unravelled mid-way through the race.
Button was forced to retire the Kunimitsu Honda he shares with Naoki Yamamoto shortly after his incident with Daisuke Nakajima, while the Real Racing NSX-GT of Bertrand Baguette and Koudai Tsukakoshi also suffered a DNF.
Fenestraz, Hiramine lose win on last lap
The #10 Gainer Nissan GT-R duo of Kazuki Hoshino and Keishi Ishikawa claimed victory in the GT300 class after a last lap move from Hoshino.
European F3 convert Sacha Fenestraz looked set for his first class win in SUPER GT after building a comfortable lead in the opening stint of the race.
However, the safety car brought the Gainer Nissan into contention, with Hoshino passing Fenestraz’s teammate Kazuki Hiramine on the final lap to seize the win.
Defending champions Haruki Kurosowa and Naoya Gamou took the final podium spot in the #65 Leon Mercedes.
D’station’s factory-supported #7 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 initially ran second after some charging opening laps from Joao Paulo de Oliveira, before it suffered a puncture while running in fifth place.
GT500 race results:
|1||Kazuya Oshima |
|2||Ryo Hirakawa |
|3||Yuji Kunimoto |
|4||Mitsunori Takaboshi |
|5||Heikki Kovalainen |
|6||Kohei Hirate |
|7||Yuji Tachikawa |
|8||Daiki Sasaki |
|9||Kazuki Nakajima |
|10||Narain Karthikeyan |
|11||Tsugio Matsuda |
|12||Naoki Yamamoto |
|13||Koudai Tsukakoshi |
|Hideki Mutoh |
|Tomoki Nojiri |
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