Okayama Super GT: Hirakawa, Cassidy win season opener
The Team TOM’S duo Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy won the opening round of the new Super GT season at Okayama, as Lexus squads locked out the top six.
The race got off to a delayed start after three Hondas stopped on the formation lap, including the polesitting ARTA car of Tomoki Nojiri and Takashi Kobayashi.
When the race finally got going after two laps under the safety car, Cassidy was immediately on the move, lunging down the inside of Kazuya Oshima’s Team Le Mans Lexus to take the lead.
The move from the former F3 race winner was perfectly timed, as another Honda stoppage and a GT300 crash saw the safety car come out again.
After nearly 10 laps under caution, the race resumed with Cassidy extending his lead at the front of the field.
Oshima, however, was under pressure by Zent’s Yuji Tachikawa, who breezed past the former Japanese F3 champion to move up to second place.
Team Le Mans, however, would bounce back after the first round of pitstops, with some speedy work in the pits catapulting the #6 LC500 into the lead of the race.
The quick stop served as a precursor to a lengthy battle for the top step on the podium between Andrea Caldarelli, Oshima's teammate, and Hirakawa’s Team TOM’S entry.
While Hirakawa was able to pass Caldarelli on warmer tyres, the Italian stayed within arm's length of the leading Lexus for the rest of the race.
The two drivers ran side-by-side on several occasions, but Hirakawa managed to keep his nose ahead to win the season-opener.
Meanwhile, defending champions Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate made up for missing Saturday’s Q2 to take the final spot on the podium, and finish within touching distance of the leading duo.
The #38 Zent of Tachikawa and former Super Formula champion Hiroaki Ishiura dropped down to fourth in the second stint, while the second TOM’S car of Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter was classified fifth, after the former ran wide into the gravel trap while battling with Caldarelli.
The WedsSport duo of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuji Kunimoto finished sixth, while Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli finished seventh in the lead Nissan entry.
GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough and teammate Hironobu Yasuda were next up in the Impul GT-R, while Mugen was the only Honda team to finish on the lead lap in ninth.
Daisuke Nakajima and Hideki Mutoh headed home Daiki Sasaki and Joao Paulo de Oliveira’s Kondo Racing-run GT-R, which completed the Top 10.
Mercedes 1-2 in GT300
In the GT300 class, Team Ukyo’s Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka took a conclusive victory from Leon’s Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou, making it a one-two finish for Mercedes.
VivaC Toyota pair Kenta Yamashita and Takamitsu Matsui finished third, after a heated battle with Leon’s AMG GT3 ended with a spin.
Meanwhile, Morio Nitta's Inging-run Ferrari suffered a huge crash at Turn 2, the three-time class champion having to be taken to a nearby hospital after the incident.
GT500 Race Results:
|1|| Ryo Hirakawa |
|2|| Kazuya Oshima |
|3|| Heikki Kovalainen |
|4|| Yuji Tachikawa |
|5|| Kazuki Nakajima |
|6|| Yuhi Sekiguchi |
|7|| Tsugio Matsuda |
|8|| Hironobu Yasuda |
|9|| Hideki Mutoh |
|10||Daiki Sasaki |
Joao Paulo de Oliveira
|11|| Koudai Tsukakoshi |
|12|| Bertrand Baguette |
|DNF|| Satoshi Motoyama |
|DNF|| Naoki Yamamoto |
|DNS|| Tomoki Nojiri |
Okayama Super GT: ARTA upsets Lexus teams to take pole
Fuji Super GT: Tachikawa takes pole as Lexus dominates