SUPER GT Fuji: TOM'S pair deliver Toyota's first win of 2023

TOM’S duo Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata scored Toyota’s first win of the 2023 SUPER GT season in convincing fashion at Fuji Speedway.

#36 au TOM'S GR Supra

The occupants of the #36 Toyota GR Supra came through from sixth on the grid to beat the pole-sitting Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT of Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino by 28 seconds in the 450km race, which ran completely caution-free.

Rounding out the podium was the Real Racing Honda of Nobuharu Matsushita and Koudai Tsukakoshi after both the Kondo Racing Nissan and #8 ARTA Honda hit late dramas.

Poleman Makino led the early stages in the Kunimitsu Honda, but was kept honest throughout the opening stint by fellow NSX driver Nirei Fukuzumi in the #16 ARTA car.

Tsuboi meanwhile held position in the opening laps but was soon climbing the order, pulling off a double pass on the second ARTA car of Tomoki Nojiri and the struggling #19 Racing Project Bandoh of Yuji Kunimoto to grab fourth.

On lap 20, Tsuboi passed Sasaki’s Kondo Nissan to move up to third, and had caught up to the two leading Hondas by the time the first round of GT500 stops began.

At the start of lap 31, Tsuboi picked off Fukuzumi in the ARTA Honda for second, with both Makino and Fukuzumi coming in for their first of two mandatory pitstops that lap.

Tsuboi pitted next time round, managing to jump the Kunimitsu Honda in the process, with a shorter stop promoting the #8 Honda of Nojiri to second once all cars had pitted.

#36 au TOM'S GR Supra

#36 au TOM'S GR Supra

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

In the second stint Tsuboi gradually pulled away from Nojiri, with the advantage north of 10 seconds by the time of the #36 car’s second stop on lap 63.

Miyata took over from Tsuboi from the run to the chequered flag, emerging from the pits with 16 seconds in hand over the Kunimitsu Honda - now in the hands of Yamamoto - that returned to second place thanks to a slower second stop for the #8 car.

That was how the top two finished, with Miyata and Tsuboi both collecting their second GT500 wins - and giving the #36 TOM’S car a first win since the 2021 finale.

Toshiki Oyu appeared to struggle for pace after taking over from Nojiri for the final stint in the #8 Honda, and after the second round of stops was jumped by the late-stopping Kondo Racing Nissan of Daiki Sasaki and Kohei Hirate in the battle for third.

Hirate, who had taken over from Sasaki at the first stop, was closing in on Yamamoto for second place when the Kondo car picked up front-left damage with five laps to go, ostensibly as a result of contact with a GT300 car, dropping out of the race.

That promoted Oyu back to third, but the ARTA driver came under big pressure from a charging Tsukakoshi in the Real Racing Honda to hang on to the place late on.

Oyu looked like he had done enough when he suddenly slowed coming out of the final corner on the penultimate lap, limping into the pits and allowing the Real car of Tsukakoshi and Matsushita, who had started the race eighth, to take the final podium spot.

After the late demise of the Kondo car, it was the #3 NDDP Racing car of Mitsunori Takakboshi and Katsumasa Chiyo that finished as best Nissan in fifth, albeit after Takaboshi was passed late on by Kenta Yamashita in the Rookie Racing Toyota.

The second TOM’S Toyota of Ukyo Sasahara and Giuliano Alesi came home sixth ahead of the Okayama-winning NISMO Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.

ARTA’s #16 car of Fukuzumi and Hiroki Otsu was hit by a drive-through penalty for a pitstop infraction, dropping them to 10th behind the SARD Toyota and Impul Nissan.

In the GT300 class, Kondo Racing Nissan pair Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Teppei Natori converted pole position into victory after a close battle with the Inging Toyota squad.

Fuji 450km - GT500 race results:

  1.  #36 TOM'S Toyota
  2. #100 Kunimitsu Honda
  3. #17 Real Racing Honda
  4. #14 Rookie Racing Toyota
  5. #3 NDDP Nissan
  6. #37 TOM'S Toyota
  7. #23 NISMO Nissan
  8. #39 SARD Toyota
  9. #1 Impul Nissan
  10. #16 ARTA Honda
  11. #8 ARTA Honda +1 lap
  12. #19 Bandoh Toyota +1 lap
  13. #38 Cerumo Toyota +1 lap
  14. #64 Nakajima Honda + 1 lap
  15. #24 Kondo Nissan + 5 laps
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