JGTC Suzuka – Final Round – November 20
Round 7, the last round, of the Japanese GT Championship was held at Suzuka, on 20-21 November. The weather was fine over both days, reports Tomoko Kobayashi, as the serious runners set about settling titles in both classes. Britain's Richard Lyons, sharing his factory Nissan Fairlady Z with Satoshi Motoyama, had an 11-point lead going into the last race, over Toyota's Jeremie Dufour and Andre Couto, and 12 points over Toyota's Wakisaka and Iida.

First Qualifying
In GT500, Benoit Treluyer in the #12 Impul Nissan Z set a new JGTC course record with a time of 1’54.850. Treluyer and team mate Yuji Ide saved the best for last this year, and with provisional pole position, they seemed set to shine in the season finale – with the Laguna Seca event still to come in December. #12 was followed by the #36 TOM’s Supra and the #3 Hasemi Nissan Z. With a ballast of 100kg, the main title contender, #6 Supra was in 11th, driven by Juichi Wakisaka, Satoshi Motoyama’s #1 Z with the full 120kg ballast was 13th, and Andre Couto’s #39 Supra with 70kg in 15th – they had not been allowed to drive on Friday morning at all, as a penalty for the Autopolis accidents.

In GT300, the #5 Mach-Go Vemac 320R of Go Mifune initially recorded the fastest time, but Morio Nitta would “Go” one better and put the #43 Garaiya on pole with a 2’04.694. Hideshi Matsuda in the #11 Ferrari got close to this time but could not match it. Tetsuya Yamano in the #16 NSX, another title contender, was in fifth. Both the #43 Garaiya and the Vemac carried the GT300 maximum ballast of 80kg.

Second Qualifying
The Garaiya stayed on pole in GT300, with only the #16 NXS managing to get any closer to its time. The GT500 session saw a superb drive by Takeshi Tsuchiya in Supra #36, and Toshihiro Kaneishi in Nissan #3. Both of them beat the best time of the first session. Nissan #12 tried to get that pole position back but the drivers had to fight a car that was oversteering badly this time out.

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dailysportscar.comThe #32 Honda NSX of Andre Lotterer got up to fourth place which was a little surprising: Supra #38 (Tachikawa) and Nissan #22 would line up behind it on the grid. Of the favourites for the title, none was very prominent: Motoyama in Nissan #1 was in 11th, Wakisaka in Supra #6 took 13th, and Couto’s #39 Supra was in 14th. Notable DNQs were the Ferrari 550 and the Lamborghini Murcielago; they were allowed to set qualifying times in the following free session.

Qualifying Times
GT500

1 #36 WOODONE TOM’S Supra Takeshi Tsuchiya* / Marco Apicella 1’54.476 (10kg)
2 #3 G’ZOX SSR Hasemi Z Toshihiro Kaneishi* / Erik Comas 1’54.770 (30kg)
3 #12 Calsonic IMPUL Z Benoit Treluyer* / Yuji Ide 1’54.850 (40kg)
4 #32 EPSON NSX Tsugio Matsuda / Andre Lotterer* 1’55.776 (30kg)
5 #38 au Cerumo Supra Yuji Tachikawa* / Seiji Ara 1’55.780 (50kg)
6 #22 Motul Pitwork Z Masami Kageyama / Michael Krumm* 1’55.894 (70kg)
7 #18 TAKATA Dome NSX Ryo Michigami* / Sebastien Philippe 1’55.913
8 #8 ARTA NSX Katsutomo Kaneishi / Daisuke Ito* 1’56.200
9 #37 DYNACITY TOM’S Supra James Courtney* / Tatsuya Kataoka 1’56.665 (40kg)
10 #25 ECLIPSE ADVAN Supra Manabu Orido / Dominik Schwager* 1’56.353 (50kg)
11 #1 Xanavi NISMO Z Satoshi Motoyama* / Richard Lyons 1’56.555 (120kg)
12 #35 Yellow Hat YMS Supra Naoki Hattori* / Shigekazu Wakisaka 1’56.664 (20kg)
13 #6 Esso Ultraflo Supra Juichi Wakisaka* / Akira Iida 1’56.724 (100kg)
14 #39 DENSO SARD Supra GT Jeremie Dufour / Andre Couto* 1’57.356 (70kg)
15 #100 RAYBRIG NSX Shinji Nakano / Hiroki Katoh* 1’57.613
16 #62 Vemac R&D DUNLOP 408R Shinsuke Shibahara* / Shogo Mitsuyama 2’00.226

GT300
1 #43 ARTA Garaiya Morio Nitta* / Shinichi Takagi 2’04.694 (80kg)
2 #16 M-TEC NSX Tetsuya Yamano* / Hiroyuki Yagi 2’04.999 (80kg)
3 #10 JIM Gainer ADVAN F360 Tetsuya Tanaka* / Atsushi Yogo 2’05.156 (15kg)
4 #11 JIM RodeoDrive ADVAN F360 Hideshi Matsuda* / Ichijo Suga 2’05.435 (40kg)
5 #81 C-West Daishin ADVAN Z Masataka Yanagida* / Naofumi Omoto 2’05.459 (20kg)
6 #5 Projectµ B-1 Mach Go 320R Tetsuji Tamanaka / Go Mifune* 2’05.613
7 #52 Projectµ Taiyo Sekiyu Celica Hironori Takeuchi* / Seigo Nishizawa 2’05.631 (10kg)
8 #80 Endless Daishin ADVAN Z Mitsuhiro Kinoshita / Kazuki Hoshino* 2’05.803 (65kg)
9 #30 RECKLESS MR-S Kohta Sasaki* / Satoru Goto 2’05.883 (10kg)
10 #31 A’PEX I-mobisess MR-S Minoru Tanaka* / Kohji Matsuda 2’06.144 (10kg)
11 #19 WedsSport Celica Takayuki Aoki / Nobuteru Taniguchi* 2’06.177 (40kg)
12 #12 Espelir Kosei Celica Masaoki Nagashima / Masahiro Matsunaga* 2’06.937
13 #26 Endless Taisan ADVAN GT3R Yutaka Yamagishi* / Kaoru Ijiri 2’07.016
14 #9 ADVAN K-STADIUM MT Go Shimizu / Shinya Hosokawa* 2’07.439
15 #7 Amemiya Aspara Drink RX7 Shinichi Yamaji* / Hiroyuki Iiri 2’07.474 (75kg)
16 #63 LEYJUN Dunlop 320R OSAMU* / Takaya Tsubobayashi 2’07.664 (60kg)
17 #72 ADVAN BORO Porsche Akira Hirakawa / Hideo Fukuyama* 2’07.917
18 #77 Cusco Subaru ADVAN Impreza Katsuo Kobayashi / Tatsuya Tanigawa* 2’08.048 (10kg)
19 #51 NSC AUTO STAFF ADVAN Silvia Masanobu Kato* / Katsuhiko Tsutsui 2’08.343
20 #2 Privee Zurich Kumho NSX Kazuho Takahashi / Akira Watanabe* 2’08.393
21 #112 ARKTECH ADVAN GT3 Guts Jonai / Keita Sawa* 2’08.645
22 #910 Takamizawa Seikotsuin ADVAN Porsche Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Sunako Jukucho* 2’08.789
23 #20 FK/Massimo ADVAN Porsche Hiroshi Wada / Takashi Inoue* 2’10.212

To be qualified: =107% of pole time
GT500: 2’02.726 / GT300: 2’13.695
* denotes the driver who recorded the time.

DNQ:
GT500
#21 Ferrari 550GTS Maranello Hidetoshi Mitsusada* / (Tadao Uematsu) 2’01.762
#88 JLOC Murcielago RG-1 (Koji Yamanishi)* / (WADA-Q) 2’02.982

GT300
#111 ARKTECH ENDLESS ADVAN GT4 (Hiroya Iijima) / Takayuki Ohi* 2’10.360
#70 Fields Gaikokuya ADVAN Porsche (Yoshimi Ishibashi) / (Hiromi)* 2’14.835
Drivers shown in () was slower than standard time.

Free Practice
All 43 cars were allowed to start the 30 minutes free practice, and those four non-qualifiers would be “qualified” to compete in the race. In GT500, the top three qualifiers shared the top three places. Point leader #1 Z took 11th, #39 10th and #6 15th. In GT300, #81 Z of Masataka Yanagida was the fastest in this session and felt confident for the race against #43 Garaiya and #16 NSX. #16 NSX finished third in this session but #43 Garaiya was eighth. #77 Impreza, which could not run in second qualifying was ninth, so their trouble might have been solved.

Race
Nissan #22 (Kageyama), Honda #18 (Philippe), and Vemac #62 (Shibahara) had a tete-a-tete in the first corner, and had to let the whole field past; all three could continue. Through all this confusion, Tsuchiya kept his place. In Nissans #12 and #3, Benoit Treluyer and his manager Erik Comas fought each other right up to the driver change.

Many places and quite some time behind them, Satoshi Motoyama (#1 Nissan Z) and Andre Couto (#39 Toyota Supra) and Akira Iida (#6 Supra) ran in 7th, 9th, and 11th. Toyota #6 had developed engine trouble in the morning, and the team had agreed to support their fellow Toyota competitors in #39 in their bid for the title. On lap 9, Hattori in Supra #35 overtook Satoshi “Fastest Man in Japan” Motoyama, with a marvellous manoeuvre. Motoyama in Nissan #1 then fell back to 8th, with Supra #39 closing in. For all the straight line speed it had, #39 was not fast enough to overtake at the end of the home straight. There were some opportunities, but Motoyama did not give Couto a real chance.

On lap 21, Honda #32 was the first to change drivers, Matsuda taking over from Lotterer. Whilst Nissans #1 and #12 pitted on lap 23, the race lead changed from Supra #36 on lap 25 to Supra #39 on lap 26, and Nissan #3 on lap 27. It was getting confusing out there.

Right after the pitstop, Yuji Ide in Nissan #12 attacked Marco Apicella’s #36 Supra, which got held up by a GT300 car at the chicane. Ide decided to go for the lead right there and then. They went through the first and second corner side by side, and Apicella defended his lead – but only for one lap. From lap 27 to lap 30, Nissan #12 comfortably pulled away and worked up a three second advantage.

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Four laps later, Wakisaka suddenly brought Supra #6 back to its garage. The team quickly checked the engine, and called it a race. Their “ally”, Supra #39 meanwhile edged closer and closer to Nissan #1, in spite of a pit stop four seconds longer than their adversary.

dailysportscar.comJeremie Dufour was driving the Toyota now (left). On lap 43, they were running in 8th and 9th, then moved one up as both got by Wakisaka’s #35 Supra just before it disappeared off into the gravel bed, after mechanical trouble.

With the finish in sight, Apicella was still in second, now about two seconds behind Ide, and desperately trying to catch up; but the Italian got held up by an Italian car, the slow Murcielago which was trailing a dense cloud of smoke. So Nissan #12 secured its position, and won the final round of the 2004 Japanese GT Championship, followed by Toyota #36 and Nissan #3. Seiji Ara in Supra #38 came home in fourth, after fending off a hard attack from Matsuda. But the battle for the Championship was between Nissan #1 Toyota #39 – they came across the line in 7th, and in 8th. For Andre Couto and Jeremie Dufour, this was not enough: after many laps of battle in this 52 lap race, they lost the battle on the track, and the championship to Satoshi Motoyama and Richard Lyons.

GT300 pole man Morio Nitta kept his place in front of Tanaka’s #10 Ferrari and his main rival for the championship, Tetsuya Yamano in Honda #16; these three were within one second. They were also a second per lap quicker than Nissan #81 (Yanagida) which led the rest of the GT300 brigade. Yamano got by Tanaka on lap 14. They showed their superb driving skills right in the middle of all the GT500 cars. Then Yamano attacked Nitta. Garaiya #43 or Honda #16 – whichever won the race would win the championship. Ferrari #10 was now in third, but Tanaka still saw his chance. These three cars were within half a second. On lap 25, the Ferrari overtook the NSX and tried to pull the same move on the Garaiya, but failed. A lap later, the Ferrari went into the lead anyway as both the other cars left the battle, and came in for their driver changes. The M-TEC crew’s pit work was quicker than that of ARTA, and GT300 rookie driver Hiroyuki Yagi in the Honda emerged onto the track some four seconds ahead of the Garaiya with Shinichi Takagi at the wheel. Ferrari #10 had its driver change on lap 33, and lost some time there.

All the way to the finish, the pit crew of #16 gave their driver Hiroyuki Yagi a “pep talk” via the radio. The Garaiya came within 2.1 seconds of #16 at the final stage of the race, but Yagi did not panic this time. Honda #16 won its first GT300 race, and also the Championship in the first year of their challenge. Drivers Tetsuya Yamano, many times Japanese gymkhana champion, and Hiroyuki Yagi, the Honda Integra Cup champion, won their first GT300 title as well. Nitta and Takagi in Garaiya #43 finished in a bitter second place, and the #10 Ferrari lost the chance to win the race at the pitstop, and had to be content with third.

dailysportscar.comSo, the 2004 Japanese GT Championship is over, and we have our winners. Briton Richard Lyons won his second Japanese title of the year, along with Formula Nippon, and he did so under the watchful eyes of Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn (with Lyons, right). This must be a big boost for Lyons’ hopes to get into Formula 1 (not that this will matter much at all to you, dear dailysportscar reader).

Right after the race, the emotional Hiroyuki Yagi cried for a long time. When the Honda Integra Cup graduate was chosen for this drive in the GT300 class, he was constantly compared with the experienced Yamano. He seemed the happiest man on earth.

Race Result
1 #12 GT500-1 Calsonic IMPUL Z Benoit Treluyer / Yuji Ide 1:45.47.291 52 laps (40kg)
2 #36 GT500-2 WOODONE TOM’S Supra Takeshi Tsuchiya / Marco Apicella 52 laps (10kg)
3 #3 GT500-3 G’ZOX SSR Hasemi Z Toshihiro Kaneishi / Erik Comas 52 laps (30kg)
4 #38 GT500-4 au Cerumo Supra Yuji Tachikawa / Seiji Ara 52 laps (50kg)
5 #32 GT500-5 EPSON NSX Tsugio Matsuda / Andre Lotterer 52 laps (30kg)
6 #37 GT500-6 DYNACITY TOM’S Supra James Courtney / Tatsuya Kataoka 52 laps (40kg)
7 #1 GT500-7 Xanavi NISMO Z Satoshi Motoyama / Richard Lyons 52 laps (120kg)
8 #39 GT500-8 Denso SARD Supra GT Jeremie Dufour / Andre Couto 52 laps (70kg)
9 #100 GT500-9 RAYBRIG NSX Shinji Nakano / Hiroki Katoh 52 laps
10 #25 GT500-10 ECLIPSE ADVAN Supra Manabu Orido / Dominik Schwager 52 laps (50kg)
11 #8 GT500-11 ARTA NSX Katsutomo Kaneishi / Daisuke Ito 51 laps
12 #18 GT500-12 TAKATA Dome NSX Ryo Michigami / Sebastien Philippe 51 laps
13 #62 GT500-13 Vemac R&D DUNLOP 408R Shinsuke Shibahara / Shogo Mitsuyama 50 laps
14 #21 GT500-14 Ferrari 550GTS Maranello Hidetoshi Mitsusada / Tadao Uematsu 49 laps
15 #16 GT300-1 M-TEC NSX Tetsuya Yamano / Hiroyuki Yagi 1:46.58.226 49 laps (80kg)
16 #43 GT300-2 ARTA Garaiya Morio Nitta / Shinichi Takagi 49 laps (80kg)
17 #10 GT300-3 JIM Gainer ADVAN F360 Tetsuya Tanaka / Atsushi Yogo 49 laps (15kg)
18 #88 GT500-15 JLOC Murcie RG-1 Koji Yamanishi / WADA-Q 48 laps
19 #30 GT300-4 RECKLESS MR-S Kohta Sasaki / Satoru Goto 48 laps (10kg)
20 #19 GT300-5 WedsSport Celica Takayuki Aoki / Nobuteru Taniguchi 48 laps (40kg)
21 #80 GT300-6 Endless Daishin ADVAN Z Mitsuhiro Kinoshita / Kazuki Hoshino 48 lap (65kg)
22 #81 GT300-7 C-West Daishin ADVAN Z Masataka Yanagida / Naofumi Omoto 48 lap (20kg)
23 #26 GT300-8 Endless Taisan ADVAN GT3R Yutaka Yamagishi / Kaoru Ijiri 48 laps
24 #52 GT300-9 Project µ Taiyo Sekiyu Celica Hironori Takeuchi / Seigo Nishizawa 48 laps (10kg)
25 #31 GT300-10 A’PEX i-mobisess MR-S Minoru Tanaka / Kohji Matsuda 48 laps (10kg)
26 #77 GT300-11 Cusco Subaru Impreza Katsuo Kobayashi / Tatsuya Tanigawa 48 laps (10kg)
27 #5 GT300-12 Project µ B-1 Mach Go 320R Tetsuji Tamanaka / Go Mifune 48 laps
28 #51 GT300-13 NSC AUTO STAFF ADVAN Silvia Masakazu Katoh / Katsuhiko Tsutsui 48 laps
29 #11 GT300-14 JIM RodeoDrive ADVAN F360 Hideshi Matsuda / Ichijo Suga 48 laps (40kg)
30 #17 GT300-15 Espelir Kosei Celica Masaoki Nagashima / Masahiro Matsunaga 48 laps
31 #63 GT300-16 LEYJUN Dunlop 320R OSAMU / Takaya Tsubobayashi 48 laps (60kg)
32 #35 GT500-16 Yellow Hat YMS Supra Naoki Hattori / Shigekazu Wakisaka 48 laps (20kg)
33 #112 GT300-17 ARKTECH ADVAN GT3 Guts Jonai / Keita Sawa 47 laps
34 #7 GT300-18 Amemiya Aspara Drink RX7 Shinichi Yamaji / Hiroyuki Iiri 47 laps
35 #20 GT300-19 FK/Massimo ADVAN Porsche Hiroshi Wada / Takashi Inoue 47 laps
36 #910 GT300-20 Takamizawa Seikotsuin ADVAN Porsche Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Sunako Jukucho 47 laps
37 #72 GT300-21 ADVAN BORO Porsche Atsushi Hirakawa / Hideo Fukuyama 46 laps
38 #1 GT300-22 Privee Zurich Kumho NSX Kazuho Takahashi / Akira Watanabe 45 laps
39 #111 GT300-23 ARKTECH ENDLESS ADVAN GT4 Hiroya Iijima / Takayuki Ohi 45 laps
40 #70 GT300-24 Fields Gaikokuya ADVAN Porsche Yoshimi Ishibashi / Hiromi 36 laps

DNF
#6 GT500 Esso Ultraflo Supra Juichi Wakisaka / Akira Iida 34 laps (100kg)
#22 GT500 Motul Pitwork Z Masami Kageyama / Michael Krumm 32 laps (70kg)
#9 GT300 ADVAN K-STADIUM MT Go Shimizu / Shinya Hosokawa 17 laps

2004 Japanese GT Champions
GT500 - Satoshi Motoyama / Richard Lyons, #1 Xanavi NISMO Nissan Z
GT300 - Tetsuya Yamano / Hiroyuki Yagi, #16 M-TEC Honda NSX

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