2017 Super GT Round 4: The Luck of the Pit Stop Draw

After a long summer break the prestigious Super GT series has resumed its exciting rivalry. Following two months off, the world’s fastest GT cars returned to action at Sugo, the series’ northernmost venue.

The qualifying session kicked off under the close supervision of frisky clouds up the sky. Luckily though the surface remained dry through the entire day, allowing the spectators to witness three Honda cars settling the top positions during the second qualifying session.

The Team ARTA (No. 8) NSX of Tomoki Nojiri and Takashi Kobayashi headed the Honda’s 1-2-3. The duo’s shockingly fast lap of 1:10.915 left the rest of the grid far behind, with a 0.6s advantage. It was the ARTA car’s second pole position of the season, but the NSXs had not had as much luck with race results. Could Sunday’s feature race change their fortunes?

The race started under wet conditions, thanks to light rain. This had a dramatic effect on the fortunes of the No.12 Team Impul Calsonic of Jann Mardenborough and Hironobu Yasuda, which started on slicks.

However, after just two laps, the first NSX fell in an incident unrelated to the rain. The No. 17 Keihin NSX of Koudai Tsukakoshi and Takashi Kogure retired after the engine cover flew off on the pit straight.

This incident was soon followed by the first of the safety cars, which shook up the grid. But the real drama unfolded when the safety car came out again on lap 49. Just a lap before, the No. 1 car of Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate went into the pit together with the No. 46 car from team Road Craftsports. All the other cars fighting for the top didn’t make it in time, and had to wait for the race to resume to make their stops.

This meant that once the safety period ended, all the Honda cars fighting at the front had to turn over their leadership to pit in and change tires. When the race resumed on lap 53, the No. 1 and No. 46 cars suddenly had the advantage of the rest of the GT500 class by more than a minute.

Eventually the race finished in favour of the No.1 car of Kovalainen and Hirate, which took the victory ahead of the No. 46 by just one second. The two teams completed the race a lap ahead of the rest of the class. The No.12 Team Impul Calsonic GT-R of Mardenborough and Yasuda finished the race 11th.

In the GT300 class the No. 11 Gainer Tanax AMG GT3 of Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Bjorn Wirdheim claimed the victory laurel. Much like the runner-up Ferrari 488 GT3 (No. 50), the team impressively climbed up the grid from a fairly low position.

The famous Fuji Speedway will host the next Super GT race on August 6. See you there!

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