Super GT – Sugo GT 300km Race : Dramatic First Win for KEIHIN HSV-010

A series of collisions and spinouts disrupted the early stages of the race. Out in front, however, the pole-starting No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) was running away at a high pace unmatched by any other machine on the track. By lap six, Treluyer had already recorded the fastest lap of the race at 1 min. 17.691 sec. and enjoyed a more than 10-sec. safety margin over the pack when he brought the car back to the pit on lap 50 and turned over the wheel to Satoshi Motoyama. Motoyama also managed to keep a safe margin of lead as his stint wore on. Car No. 23 had scored the fastest laps in every session run in this race weekend’s practice and qualifying, and it looked to be on its way to a runaway victory in the race too. But then disaster struck and car No. 23 suddenly slowed on the final turn of lap number 74, coming to a halt on the in side of the track. The trouble was an electrical system failure and the car was able to return to the race after turning on the switch again, but the time loss had dropped it back to 6th place.

This opened up the lead to the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Loic Duval / Takashi Kogure). But, closing in on its tail was the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi / Koudai Tsukakoshi), making the race a shoot-out between two Honda HSV-010 GTs. As the two machines maneuvered between the GT300 class backmarkers Tsukakoshi pulled up even with Kogure several times. Each time, however, the more experienced Kogure was able to hold off Tsukakoshi’s charge. On the last lap a slight gap had opened up between the two Hondas and it looked as if Kogure was going to be able to hold his lead to the finish. But, Tsukakoshi in car No. 17 hadn’t given up, as he chased Kogure in car No. 18 into the last turn, waiting for the chance to strike. At that moment, however, a backmarker appeared in front of Kogure limiting his choice of lines. Tsukakoshi didn’t miss this chance. He pulled up alongside Kogure on the out side and the two accelerated at full speed out of the turn. As they crossed the finish line, the nose cone of Tsukakoshi’s car No. 17 was just ahead of Kogure’s. The clock timed the difference between the two machines as 0.025 sec. The 27,000 spectators thrilled at the spectacle of this dramatic turn of events.

For the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010, its first podium finish of the season was also its first victory. For the team and for Koudai Tsukakoshi, this was their first SUPER GT victory. Toshihiro Kaneishi has one victory in the All Star Race of 2004, but this is his first win in a series round. After having victory stolen out of their hands, the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure / Loic Duval) team settled for a disappointing 2nd. Finishing 3rd was the No. 6 ENEOS SC430 (Daisuke Ito / Bjorn Wirdheim). Staring from 8th position on the grid, the first-stint driver, Wirdheim, had managed to avoid the early confusion and move up through the pack. Over the second half of the race, his teammate Ito had been able to hold pace and claim this podium finish. With this finish, Ito and Wirdheim stay at top the season ranking.

GT500 Class Winner Comments :

Toshihiro Kaneishi : I still can’t believe that we really won (laughs). When tomorrow comes and I start getting emails of congratulations, I think it will finally start to sink in. From the start, the car felt good and the choice of tires felt perfect, so I decided to start working up steadily through the field. But the cars in front of me were going so slow that I decided to make out routine pit stop earlier than usual. In yesterday’s qualifying, Koudai (Tsukakoshi) had a hard time getting things together and only managed to qualify 10th, but since the condition of the machine itself was so good, I thought he would do well in the race. With about ten laps left in the race, I couldn’t bare to watch the race in the pit [where everyone was], so I went to the trailer and prayed for the best as I watched the remainder of the race on the TV monitor. I had goose bumps as I watched the finish. We were very lucky (laughs). The distance of the next race at Suzuka is long (700 km), so I want to run steady laps and have another good race like today.

Koudai Tsukakoshi : The realization that we actually won hasn’t sunk in yet. In the first half of the race Toshihiro-san passed several cars and improved our position running at a good pace, so I imagined that the machine feeling must be good. Once I took the wheel, I decided to continue to work toward the front without getting anxious. Also, I was able to use the GT300 machines to pass other cars in our class. When found out that the lead GT-R had stopped and Kogure-san (car No. 18) had taken over the lead, I tried to pass him several times, but it didn’t work. At the finish, I couldn’t have caught Kogure-san if there hadn’t been a GT300 car in front of him. I think I was just very lucky. As a team, we have confidence that we can run good races, now all we need to work on is getting a better qualifying position. Then I will try my best to go for a second straight win in the next round.

The GT300 class race saw the pole-starting No. 2 Apple·K-ONE·Shiden (Hiroki Katoh) run away from the pack in the early stages. Behind it, the No. 31 EVANGELION RT TEST TYPE-01 apr COROLLA (Koki Saga) was giving chase but couldn’t narrow the gap. Meanwhile, another gap existed between these two and the rest of the field. In car No. 31, Saga continued to lose ground to the more experienced Katoh (No. 2) in areas like how to move out of the way of a passing GT500 and how to handle the changing track conditions as rain began to fall in the middle stages of the race.

Katoh (No. 2) held off returning to the pit for the team’s routine pit stop until lap 51 of the 81-lap race in order to reduce the workload on his teammate Hiroshi Hamaguchi. The pit work was completed with no time loss and Hamaguchi returned to the race with the lead in tact. After that, Hamaguchi drove with a calm steadiness unbefitting a rookie and succeeded in maintaining the nearly 30-second lead he had received. He ran on alone that way to the finish and the victory. For the No. 2 Apple·K-ONE·Shiden (Hiroki Katoh / Hiroshi Hamaguchi) team, this was their first win of the season. For Katoh, it was his fourth win in the GT300 class. For the Shiden team it was also their fourth victory. For the rookie Hamaguchi debuting in SUPER GT this season, it was only his fourth race. What’s more, in two of those races the team had been forced to retire from the race before Hamaguchi had a chance to drive. As a result, his first victory came in what was in fact only his third GT race.

In the battle for 2nd place, the No. 3 HASEMI SPORT TOMICA Z passed car No. 31 (Koki Saga > Kosuke Matsuura) on lap number 53. No. 3 went on that way to finish 2nd. Car No. 3 had suffered an unsuccessful qualifying with Kazuki Hoshino driving and had been forced to start from 12th position on the class grid. But, Hoshino had come back in the race to move up steadily through the field and stand effectively in 3rd position when he turned the driver’s seat over to teammate Masataka Yanagida for the second half of the race. During his stint, Yanagida made skillful use of backmarkers to pass No. 31 (Matsuura). For the 3rd-place finishing No. 31 EVANGELION RT TEST TYPE-01 apr COROLLA (Koki Saga / Kosuke Matsuura), this was the team’s first podium finish of the season.

GT300 Class Winner Comments :

Hiroki Katoh : It was quite a difficult race. But through it all, the team, the staff and the Yokohama tire people have done a perfect job all week. There was some uncertainty at the start but the competition gradually fell back, and it got easier after that. We have had a lot of unlucky races recently, so I pushed hard to get us as big a margin as possible in case something happened again. It was tough to do that, but then I heard people saying that it was a boring race because we were alone in the lead. That was a real shock for me (laughs). Rain started falling after I had turned to car over to Hamaguchi-san, so I couldn’t feel at ease as I watched. But he was running steady laps and his driving looked under control, so it was half anxiety and half assurance I watched with.

Hiroshi Hamaguchi : I am really grateful to [team owner] Takahashi-san and Yura-san [whose recommendation got him the seat] for giving an inexperienced amateur driver like me this opportunity. In the races so far this season we have had a lot of bad luck and we had to retire in two the four races before I could drive. Katoh-san managed to give me a good margin of lead but I was still very uncertain out there about things like how to let the GT500 machines past me. So, it was a tense race for me all the way until I got out of the last corner. After the disappointing races we have had until now, it was really moving for me and I got emotional for the first time in some while after I crossed the finish line.

Photo / Info : supergt.net

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