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Race report
Super GT Motegi

Super GT Motegi: Impul ends Nissan’s title drought in dramatic finale

Nissan claimed its first SUPER GT title in seven years after Impul duo Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine finished second to Kunimitsu Honda’s Tadasuke Makino and Naoki Yamamoto in the Motegi decider.

Baguette and Hiramine arrived at the final round of the season with a 2.5 point deficit to the #3 NDDP Nissan of Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi, who had scored two wins compared to one for the Impul crew prior to Motegi.

But the NISMO-run squad dropped out of contention almost immediately after the race began as Chiyo pitched the ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri into a spin at Turn 5, picking up a drive-through penalty for the offence.

With Chiyo and Takaboshi only able to recover to fourth, and Real Racing Honda duo Nobuharu Matsushita and Koudai Tsukakoshi only managing fifth in the other title-contending car, second place was enough for Baguette and Hiramine to clinch the 2022 GT500 title.

It marked the first championship triumph for Nissan since Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda’s success in 2015, as well as the first drivers’ title for the Impul team since 1995.

Nissan’s celebrations at Motegi were doubled by Kiyoto Fujinami and Joao Paulo de Oliveira taking the GT300 title in dramatic fashion in the #56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.

Story of the race

At the start, Makino held the lead from pole position in the Kunimitsu Honda, while Baguette briefly passed the Bandoh Toyota of Yuji Kunimoto before dropping back to third.

Behind, Nojiri tried to find his way past the Nissan of Chiyo into Turn 5, only to be forced wide off track and into a spin.

The incident turned out to be crucial in deciding the outcome of the championship, as Chiyo was deemed responsible for causing the collision and subsequently hit with a drive-through penalty by the stewards.

This dropped him all the way down to 12th in the order and well outside the points scoring positions, putting the Impul crew in prime position to clinch the title.

By the time Chiyo came into the pitlane to serve his drive-through, major drama had unfolded lower down the order that ultimately necessitated a safety car. Sho Tsuboi (#36 TOM'S Toyota), Daiki Sasaki (Kondo Nissan) and Yuichi Nakayama (SARD Toyota) were all involved in a multi-car pile-up with the #30 apr and #25 Tsuchiya GT300 cars, with many suffering terminal damage as a result.

The #23 NISMO Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli was also involved in a separate incident on the same lap and, before the track could be cleared, the #31 apr Toyota of Yuhki Nakayama slammed into the back of the #5 Team Mach Toyota on the start/finish straight, extending the safety car period even further.

It wasn’t until lap 21 of 63 that the race resumed, with Makino hanging on to first place ahead of Kunimoto and Baguette, as Nobuharu Matsushita took the restart in fourth having taken advantage of the early-race drama to climb up from 12th positin.

The Kunimitsu Honda team retained the lead after Yamamoto took over from Makino but the Bandoh Toyota dropped the order during the pitstop phase, promoting Hiramine in the Impul Nissan previously driven by Baguette to second.

Hiramine closed in on Yamamoto twice during the remainder of the race but was never able to make a move, allowing the Kunimitsu team to score its first victory of the season by just over one second.

But while Hiramine and Baguette missed out on the win, they were able to secure the title in the first year of the new Nissan Z, carrying on the trend of the Yokohama-based manufacturer winning the championship every time it has introduced a new car to the championship in the last two decades.

Third place in the race went to Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita in the Rookie Racing Toyota, ensuring all three manufacturers were represented on the podium at Motegi.

The drive-through penalty Chiyo received initially dropped the NDDP Nissan crew outside the points-scoring positions, but the 35-year-old and teammate Takaboshi were able to pull off a stunning recovery drive, passing the Real Honda of Tsukakoshi on lap 51 to claim fourth position.

The Real team had emerged as the main contender to Impul following early drama for NDDP, but Tsukakoshi lost places to both Yamashita and Yamashita after taking over the car from Matsushita during the team’s mandatory stop, eventually finishing a disappointing fifth.

Sacha Fenestraz and Ritomo Miyata were classified sixth in the #37 TOM’S Toyota in what was the last SUPER GT outing for the Frenchman, with the Bandoh Toyota of Kunimoto and Sena Sakaguchi finishing seventh at the flag after starting the race from the front row.

Nojiri and Nirei Fukuzumi could only muster eighth in the ARTA Honda after plummeting down the order on the opening lap following Nojiri’s incident with Chiyo, while the top 10 was rounded out by the #36 TOM’S Toyota of Sho Tsuboi and Giuliano Alesi and the Cerumo Toyota of Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura.

GT300: Kondo Racing loses a wheel, but wins the title

#56 Realize Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R

#56 Realize Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Kondo Nissan pair Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujinami claimed GT300 title honours for the second time in three years at the end of a nailbiting race in which three cars looked like winning the title at various points.

That was despite de Oliveira suffering a puncture and then shedding his front-right wheel during his stint, which left he and Fujinami down in 19th place at the chequered flag.

However, with the #10 Gainer Nissan struggling for pace in the closing stages, Riki Okusa couldn't get the six points he needed to overhaul his Kondo Racing rivals, with his teammate Ryuichiro Tomita losing what would have been the title-winning position at the start of the final lap.

Victory went to the ARTA Honda NSX GT3 of polesitters of Hideki Mutoh and Iori Kimura, who dropped behind the similar UpGarage NSX at the start but regained the advantage in the pitstop phase.

The other big mover during the pitstops was the Saitama Toyopet Green Brave Toyota GR Supra of Kohta Kawaai and Hiroki Yoshida, temporarily putting Kawaai in a potential position to steal the championship away from both of the leading Nissan crews.

But Yoshida couldn't hang on to second against the #87 JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Kosuke Matsuura and Natsu Sakaguchi, handing the initiative back to the #10 Gainer car that ran third after its pitstop until being passed by Matsuura.

Tomita lost P4 after a thrilling side-by-side battle with the UpGarage Honda of Kakunoshin Ota that lasted for almost a full lap, and was under pressure not to drop any further places in order to deliver Okusa a rookie title.

But Tomita was soon caught by the other JLOC Lamborghini of Takashi Kogure, who made the move around the outside of Turns 1 and 2 to grab fifth place, therefore making Kondo the title-winning crew.

Tomita then lost a further two places later around the final lap, slipping behind both the K-tunes Lexus RC F GT3 and the Goodsmile Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to finish a disappointing eighth.

Super GT Motegi results

Pos No Car Machine Driver Team Tyre Gap
1 100 Honda STANLEY NSX-GT
Honda NSX-GT
Naoki Yamamoto
Tadasuke Makino
Kunimitsu B  
2 12 Nissan CALSONIC IMPUL Z
Nissan Z GT500
Kazuki Hiramine
Bertrand Baguette
Impul B 1.212
3 14 Toyota ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Kazuya Oshima
Kenta Yamashita
Rookie Racing B 1.888
4 3 Nissan CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL Z
Nissan Z GT500
Katsumasa Chiyo
Mitsunori Takaboshi
NDDP M 2.795
5 17 Honda Astemo NSX-GT
Honda NSX-GT
Koudai Tsukakoshi
Nobuharu Matsushita
Real Racing B 16.005
6 37 Toyota KeePer TOM'S GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Sacha Fenestraz
Ritomo Miyata
TOM'S B 26.476
7 19 Toyota WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Yuji Kunimoto
Sena Sakaguchi
Racing Project Bandoh Y 33.939
8 8 Honda ARTA NSX-GT
Honda NSX-GT
Tomoki Nojiri
Nirei Fukuzumi
ARTA B 40.295
9 36 Toyota au TOM'S GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Sho Tsuboi
Giuliano Alesi
TOM'S B 45.265
10 38 Toyota ZENT CERUMO GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Yuji Tachikawa
Hiroaki Ishiura
Cerumo B 50.036
11 16 Honda Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT
Honda NSX-GT
Ukyo Sasahara
Toshiki Oyu
Mugen D 1'11.201
12 64 Honda Modulo NSX-GT
Honda NSX-GT
Takuya Izawa
Hiroki Otsu
Nakajima D 1'12.783
13 23 Nissan MOTUL AUTECH Z
Nissan Z GT500
Tsugio Matsuda
Ronnie Quintarelli
NISMO M 3 Laps
  24 Nissan Realize corporation ADVAN Z
Nissan Z GT500
Daiki Sasaki
Kohei Hirate
Kondo Y 55 Laps
  39 Toyota DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra
TOYOTA GR Supra GT500
Yuhi Sekiguchi
Yuichi Nakayama
SARD B 55 Laps

 

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