Super GT: First victory for the triple a Vantage GT2

Friday, May 27, 2011

The GT300 class got off to a good start with no major trouble. The pole-sitting No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 (Tetsuya Tanaka) led the pack through the first corner. Chasing No. 11 in the early stages of the race was the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2 driven by Kazuki Hoshino. Some distance behind these two machines came the No. 87 RIRE Lamborghini RG-3 (Manabu Orido) in third, followed by a four-way battle for 4th place between the No. 4 HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi), the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Shinichi Takagi), the No. 26 Verity TAISAN Porsche (Hideshi Matsuda) and the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama) that saw the positions change numerous times.

As Tanaka in car No. 11 tried to maintain a good margin of lead, he was chased in the middle stages of the race by Hoshino in car No. 66, who gradually narrowed the gap to within one second. No. 66 (Hoshino) was the first to make a decisive move, returning to the pit at the end of lap 21 for an early pit stop. As the second driver for No. 66, Hiroki Yoshimoto drove hard until No. 11 made its pit stop on lap 28. When No. 11 returned to the track with Hiranaka at the wheel, No. 66 (Yoshimoto) was right behind it. With his tires not yet warmed up on the first lap out of the pit, Hiranaka was helpless as Yoshimoto went past him. Yoshimoto continued to push hard and open up the margin over Hiranaka to 10 seconds at one point.

This appeared to put the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2 in good position to take its first-ever GT win. But, an unexpected pothole waited ahead. On the 55th lap, the GT500 class No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Kohei Hirate) bumped No. 66 (Yoshimoto) as it was trying to pass it and sent it into a spin. This allowed No. 11 (Hiranaka) to slip by into the lead again.

A determined Yoshimoto pushed hard to recover, however. Unable to match Yoshimoto's pace, Hiranaka in car No. 11 was overtaken by him with five laps remaining in the race. Back in the lead again, Yoshimoto drove the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2 on to victory. It was a first victory for Yoshimoto and for the team and the Aston Martin in SUPER GT competition. For the No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 it was the second consecutive 2nd place in the new season following the result at Fuji earlier in the month.

Finishing 3rd after running much of the race alone came No. 87 RIRE Lamborghini RG-3 (Orido > Atsushi Yogo). After the fierce multi-car battle for 4th in the early stages of the race, it came down to a dual between two "itasha" (cars with anime or manga characters painted on them) cars, the No. 27 PACIFIC NAC IKAMUSUME Ferrari (Yutaka Yamagishi > Hideki Yamauchi) and the No. 4 HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW (Taniguchi/Taku Bamba), of which No. 4 emerged to claim 4th place and No. 27 finished 5th. This meant that the first five places in the GT300 class went to European makes, while the first Japanese make to finish was the No. 74 COROLLA Axio apr GT (Morio Nitta > Yuji Kunimoto) in 6th place.
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