JGTC – Sepang & Tokachi

With the European season proving somewhat hectic over the last few weeks we’ve missed the odd race or two elsewhere. Here then a quick catch-up from the hugely competitive Japanese GT Championship.

Quick Catch-Up – Round Three – Sepang 17-19 June
Jeremie Dufour and Andre Couto took victory from 13th on the grid in the #39 DENSO SARD Supra GT at a sweltering Sepang International Circuit last month.

Despite being amongst the fastest of the GT500 runners the #39 car had been caught out by a wrong tyre choice when it really counted, a race win seeming unlikely from the seventh row of the grid.

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Benoit Treluyer led the race early on in the #12 Calsonic Nissan 350Z after a brief battle with the #36 TOMS Supra. The Nissan was then delayed on pitrow during its routine stop.

The #39 Supra meanwhile was storming through the field, Couto gaining four places on his opening lap and reaching third place within 10 circuits, a place he would hold until handing the car over to Dufour on Lap 26.

Treluyer’s team-mate Yuji Ide was meanwhile being overhauled by the #35 Supra of Shigekazu Wakisaka, Ide’s day going from bad to worse soon afterwards as a collision with two GT300 runners left the Nissan unable to continue.

With the pitstops completed Marco Apicella in the #36 Supra led from Dufour (!), but the Italian would spin away his advantage on lap 45 with just ten laps to run. Despite a spirited effort from the Naoki Hattori pedalled #35 car Dufour would hold on to win.

The final podium spot was claimed by Briton Richard Lyons, his #1 350Z coming off best from a clash with Kaneishi’s similar #3 machine.

The Sepang race marked the debut of the #15 Amprex Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, the car performing strongly and finishing 12th overall straight out of the box, two places ahead of the Ferrari 550 GTS. The second (#88) Murcielago was a non-finisher, broken suspension ending its day.

In GT300 the pole-sitting #80 Nissan 350Z faded almost from the off, ceding the lead to the #63 Vemac 320R on lap 3.

The Vemac held the class lead until the mandatory pitstops and when the British-built car pitted, the baton was picked up by the #7 Mazda RX7 of Shinichi Yamaji.

Yamaji took full advantage of a clear track, pulling out a large advantage over the Vemac over seven laps before pitting the RX7 for his own driver change.

It would prove to be enough, the RX7 romping to an impressive victory.

Second place would be claimed by the #16 HondaNSX with the #5 Vemac taking third.

Quick Catch-Up - Round Four – Tokachi Speedway – 16-18 July
Erik Comas took the #3 Nissan Fairlady Z to his first Pole Position in the JGTC for almost a decade (his last being in the early part of the 1995 Championship).

Benoit Treluyer would make it an all Nissan front row, with a time just six hundredths of a second behind Comas’s mark. Indeed it would be a 350Z 1,2, 3 with the #22 NISMO Z of Michael Krumm less than a tenth behind the second placed car. Positions 4 to 6 on the grid were occupied by Toyota Supras, the #36 car of Takeshi Tsuchiya ahead of Juichi Wakisaka in #5 and ex British F3 runner James Courtney in #37.

In GT300 the #81 Team Daishin Nissan 350Z grabbed pole ahead of the #63 Vemac 320R, with the Sepang-winning RX7 back in 14th as the success ballast bit hard.

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Sunday’s race would be hot and unseasonably sunny, but that wouldn’t deter Comas who started to build a gap from the very start. His efforts were helped by a squabbling pack behind, Treluyer in the #12 350Z down to third as Masami Kageyama powered by in the #22 factory 350Z, and then down to fourth as a fast starting James Courtney took the #37 Supra up into third spot.

The #39 Supra was to have an eventful start to its afternoon, contact with the #25 Toyota on Lap 1 dropping the car right down the order only for Andre Couto to storm back up to fifth place, Couto handing the car over to Jeremie Dufour on lap 43.

Comas meanwhile had eked out a 10-second advantage by lap 44, a slight delay on pitlane dropping team-mate Toshihiro Kaneishi to second. This allowed Krumm in the #22 Nissan to take the lead with Kaneishi in second, until he was demoted to third by a charging Wakisaka in the #5 Esso-backed Supra on the very last lap of the race.

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Krumm (above) kept up his pace and kept his cool finishing less than a second clear of the Supra, with Kaneishi another second in arrears.

GT 300 too provided an action-packed race, perhaps a little too action-packed for the #63 Vemac, which suffered rear end damage after lunging up the inside of the polesitting Nissan. The subsequent damage would leave the Vemac well out of contention.

The Nissan though displayed crushing domination for the first half of the race up to 15th overall, amongst the GT500 stragglers as the pit stop approached for Masataka Yanagida to hand the 350Z over to Naofumi Omoto.

The second half of the race saw a battle royal between Omoto's 350Z and the now class-leading Takagi in the #43 Garaiya. The lead changed hands several times with the Garaiya dominant on the straights but the Nissan proving more wieldy in the turns. The advantage was however eventually won by the Garaiya after Omoto took to the grass and lost second place to the #16 NSX. It would therefore be a maiden win for the Garaiya: another new marque now has race-winning heritage.

 

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