Text: Mac Avendano / Photos: Jet Rabe | posted September 27, 2013 12:25
Tachikawa and Hirate managed a win despite rainfall and the difficult Fuji track
The Fuji International Speedway witnessed the 6th round of the Super GT last September 8. Fuji is notoriously known to drivers for its stretches, elevation changes, and chicanes. The ever-changing weather during the weekend added even more challenges. With these elements combined, the Fuji International Speedway became one of the most challenging race tracks this season. The GT500 class winner was the #38 Zent Cerumo Lexus SC430 driven by Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate while the GT300 class winner was the #4 GSR Hatsunemiku BMW driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka.
The official qualifying for the Fuji race saw the #38 Zent Cerumo Lexus SC430 claim pole position for the GT500 class in the cloudy afternoon of September 7.
The GT500 class qualifying started at 2:15pm. 3 minutes later, the #1 Reito Mola GT-R driven by Yuhi Sekiguchi entered the track as the first car in its class with a lap time of 1’33.461. Sekiguchi was able to improve his time by the second lap with 1’32.683, placing him at the top of the time board. His position remained on the top as other cars recorded lap times in the 1’35 range. However, Sekiguchi’s position was overtaken by Hirate when his #38 Zent Cerumo SC430 sealed the pole position with a lap time of 1’32.480. After Q1, the top cars became evident: the #38 Zent Cerumo SC430 at 1st, the #1 Reito Mola GT-R at 2nd, and the #6 Eneos Sustina SC430 at 3rd. The Q2 began at 3pm with the #1 Reito Mola GT-R clocking in at 1’32.062, the #100 Raybrig HSV-010 with 1’32.889, and the #38 Zent Cerumo SC430 with 1’32.548, outdoing the two earlier times.
In the GT300 class, the #31 Arta CR-Z GT claimed the pole position. Their Q1 started at 2pm as scheduled with the top 13 qualifiers making their way to Q2. The pole position in this class went to the #55 Arta CR-Z GT driven by Shinichi Takagi with 1’38.773, 0.4 seconds ahead of the second-placer S Road NDDP GT-R driven by Daiki Sasaki. Placed in 3rd is Hideki Mutoh with the #16 Mugen CR-Z GT.
The track dried up just before the race start after a brief morning shower, making for a relatively good track condition to start. Inside the #38 Zent Cerumo Lexus SC430, Kohei Hirate waited for the green light in pole position. After launching at green, he led the pack through the early stages of the race. Trailing behind him was Andrea Caldarelli in the #37 KeePer TOM’S SC430. However, the safety car came out in response to a huge crash on the main stretch in lap 21. This created an opportunity for other drivers to narrow down the gap against the leaders.
Following the accident, most GT500 race cars found possible period to take their respective pit stops. However, there were some teams that did otherwise, and took the lead from the #37 SC430. After the pit stop, Yuji Tachikawa had replaced Hirate behind the wheel but was hit by another car, putting him in 5th. Tachikawa struggled to regain the lead for a number of laps. By lap 43, his efforts finally bore fruit as he returned to the top position. From this point on, Tachikawa was challenged by Koudai Tsukakoshi in the #17 Keihin HSV-010. Despite the attempts to strip him of his lead, Tachikawa and his SC430 maintained the lead, and finished strong. The win at Fuji gave the team its first victory of the season, the Lexus SC430 its second of the season, and 15th for Tachikawa’s career.
Likewise, the GT300 class saw a win by the #4 GSR Hatsunemiku BMW driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka who started from the 5th position. Their lead came into perspective after the coming out of the safety car and the decision of teams to take pit stops. Following their lead, Taniguchi managed the slippery track caused by the rainfall. The lead translated into the team’s first win of the season with a 47-second lead over the 2nd place at the finish. This was the fifth win overall for the BMW Z4 in the class, 13th for Taniguchi, and 6th for Kataoka.
The Fuji race was a well-attended race with spectators tallying up to 32,800 that day.