Text: Brent Co / Photos: Super GT Press | posted October 26, 2011 13:04
S Road MOLA GT-R takes championship
In Qualifying, the GT500 Class championship leader #46 S Road MOLA GT-R driven by Ronnie Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagida proved that they are kings of the rain grabbing pole position by setting the fastest lap in all three qualifying sessions on the wet Twin Ring Motegi Circuit. The #39 Denso Sard SC430 driven by Hiroaki Ishiura and Takuto Iguchi followed in a close second to start beside the polesitter.
It was a near breakaway for the series leader #46 S Road MOLA GT-R as it ran an incident free start going out of the first corner. It would remain so as a battle was going on behind between the #39 Denso Sard SC430 driven by Ishiura and #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R driven by Joao Paulo de Lima Oliveira. The #23 MOTUL Autech GT-R driven by Benoit Treluyer would manage a good start to get ahead of #32 Epson HSV-010 driven by Ryo Ichigami.
By lap nine, an early pit stop by Oliveira for dry setup adjustments would promote Treluyer up to third. The top four drivers would eventually pull away from a battle for fifth between the #100 Raybrig HSV-010 driven by Takuya Izawa and #19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 driven by Seiji Ara. As the race approached midway, the lead drivers started to pit in. Excellent pit-work and strategy by the MOTUL Autech team would find themselves going back on track in second between race leader #46 and #39 who gets demoted to third.
By about lap 35, the #23 MOTUL Autech GT-R with a hard charging Satoshi Motoyama behind the wheel would find himself less than a second behind the race leader #46 with Yanagida driving. The fierce battled continued on until the lap 41, when Motoyoma finally found a way past Yanagida and never looked back. With an insurmountable championship lead, the S Road MOLA team decided to stay on pace and finish the race safely. The #39 Denso Sard SC430 would take the last podium spot.
With about 10 laps remaining in the race, a four car train consisting of #39, #32, #100 and the #1 Weider HSV-010 would close in on Yanagida in the #46 car. However, a four-way battle between the cars would prevent them from gaining on Yanagida who would go on to take the championship with a second place podium finish as Motoyama steered the #23 MOTUL Autech GT-R to their third season victory and runner-up finish in the championship.
The GT300 Class pole was taken by the #4 Hatsunemiku Goodsmile BMW Z4 driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi and Taku Bamba who also set the fastest lap in all three sessions. The duo would not be unchallenged on their way to the title as the points leader #11 Jimgainer Dixcel Dunlop 458 driven by Tetsuya Tanaka and Katsuyuki Hiranaka.
The dry track would give Taku Bamba the start for the #4 Hatsunemiku Goodsmile BMW, making his first ever start for the season. He would start beside their championship rival the #11 Jimgainer Dixcel Dunlop 458 with veteran driver Tetsuya Tanaka behind the wheel. A fantastic start by Bamba would find himself ahead of Tanaka, and he would continue to extend his lead. Tanaka would later by busy by his own persuer; Kota Sasaki in the #62 R&D Sport Legacy B4 who managed to get up to third from fifth on the grid in a stellar pace. Sasaki would manage to get ahead, eventually closing in on Bamba only to make an emergency pit stop due to a loose wheel nut.
With pressure off Bamba's back, he would soon find himself 4-seconds ahead of Tanaka. Tanaka's woes however were not over as a hard charging #33 Hankook Porsche driven by Masami Kageyama shot into third with a blistering pace after starting from the pits. On the 18th lap, the Jimgainer team decided to make their stop and swapped in Katsuyuki Hiranaka. The #4 car went in on the next lap putting ace drive Nobuteru Taniguchi behind the wheel and despite a lengthy refuel stop, the pit crew managed to send Taniguchi out still ahead of car #11. The #33 Porsche would soon make its stop and manage to slot in between Taniguchi and Hiranaka; this time with Tomonobu Fujii behind the wheel.
Taniguchi, with his eyes set on winning his first Super GT title after ten seasons; continued to extend his pace to widen the gap. In the final stages, he had built a comfortable gap of more than 10-seconds between him and #33 Porsche in second while another 10 seconds separated the latter and the #11 Jimgainer 458. At this point Jimgainer team could only wish for a miracle which never arrived as Taniguchi continued to drive steadily in front.
In the end, it would be a triple celebration as Taniguchi wins the race, his first Super GT title and a first title for his team as well. Fujii comes in second with the #33 Hankook Porsche, while the #11 Jimgainer 458 would only manage a disappointing third as they lose the championship to the Goodsmile team.