Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

USA
Analysis
Super GT Suzuka

How Bandoh, Yokohama ended seven-year SUPER GT win drought

Last weekend's crash-shortened SUPER GT race at Suzuka marked a first win in seven years for fan favourite Toyota squad Racing Project Bandoh, as well as tyre supplier Yokohama.

#19 WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra

Bandoh pair Yuji Kunimoto and Sena Sakaguchi finished second on the road when Sunday's race was abandoned after a horrifying crash involving Nissan driver Tsugio Matsuda on lap 59 of 77, but were promoted to what many felt was a rightful win after a penalty for the NDDP Racing Nissan.

Read Also:

From second on the grid, the Yokohama-shod #19 Toyota GR Supra of Kunimoto held position in the first stint, holding off an attack from Bertrand Baguette's Impul Nissan before the first round of pitstops.

Kunimoto came in on lap 26 to hand over to Sakaguchi, who was not only able to stay ahead of the Impul car that had pitted seven laps earlier, but also jump the pole-sitting #36 TOM'S Toyota when Sho Tsuboi made his stop on lap 28.

Sakaguchi was comfortable out front during the second stint, albeit coming under increasing pressure from Baguette, but the Bandoh crew was at an advantage having already completed its driver change at the first stops.

For the final stint, it was the TOM'S car, now in the hands of Ritomo Miyata, that emerged as the Bandoh squad's biggest threat, but Sakaguchi maintained the net lead until the race was red-flagged on lap 60.

  • Motorsport.tv is showing all qualifying sessions and races for the 2023 SUPER GT season. For more information, click here.

There was confusion as the NDDP Nissan was initially declared the winner, but the car shared by Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi was only ahead by virtue of having not completed its mandatory second stop.

A 60-second penalty was handed to Chiyo and Takaboshi after a mass protest by the other GT500 teams, and while the results remain provisional subject to appeal, Bandoh was promoted to a first win since its triumph at the Chang circuit in Thailand way back in 2016.

 

Assuming the result stands, it will mark a first win for the popular team helmed by Masataka Bandoh - son of GTA chairman Masaaki - on Japanese soil.

Bandoh's consistency throughout the race stood in stark contrast to the previous race at Fuji, where the #19 car started second but plummeted down the order in the early stages.

Kunimoto, who likewise hadn't won a SUPER GT race since Bandoh's 2016 triumph, pinpointed the much improved warm-up of the Yokohama tyre as a key factor in the team's performance. 

"Our qualifying performance continues to be good, but on top of that now we are also able to fight properly on the warm-up lap and the first lap," Kunimoto told Motorsport.com's Japanese edition.

"This time I we could take advantage of the speed of the warm-up lap and jump ahead of the #36 and the #1 [at the first round of stops], so that’s a big positive.

"This time we were able to lead more or less throughout, so I’m really grateful to Yokohama, TCD [Toyota Customising & Development] and the team."

Kunimoto, who was speaking prior to news of the NDDP Nissan's penalty, added that he had "no frustration at all" at provisionally finishing second owing to the strength of the team's performance.

"We gave it our best, didn't make any mistakes and fought strongly, so it was a really fun weekend," he said.

#19 WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra

#19 WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Yokohama meanwhile was left celebrating a first GT500 win since the Kondo Nissan squad won the penultimate round of the 2016 season at Motegi.

That followed a number of near misses in recent years, most notably last year's Autopolis round where the Kondo Z looked to have winning pace but lost out to its Bridgestone-shod rivals on strategy.

Yokohama had established its prowess over a single lap with five poles out of eight last year, but its race performance often left much to be desired, particularly with the Bandoh car that took four of those poles.

Reversing that trend gives the team's breakthrough Suzuka win extra significance, according to team director Masataka Bandoh.

"We’ve always used Yokohama tyres since the start, and we want to show everyone how much progress Yokohama has made," said Bandoh. "We want people to see we are challengers.

"Last year we had four poles, but I’m sure people were thinking, ‘when are these guys going to win?’ and when we had races like Fuji, where we started second and finished 12th, I think a lot of people were expecting us to drop back.

"But having strong races like this allows us to show how much progress Yokohama has made."

Yokohama also took pole at Suzuka on Saturday, albeit the Kondo Nissan that took the top spot was later disqualified for having a fuel tank that was marginally over the maximum allowed capacity.

Read Also:

Daiki Sasaki, who along with Kohei Hirate recovered to eighth from the back of the grid, said that efforts to widen the range of conditions in which Yokohama can be competitive have paid off.

"Rather than just improving the warm-up of tyres that are suitable for summer conditions, we have expanded the range so that tyres with fast warm-up that are suitable for cooler conditions can now also be used in higher temperatures," Sasaki told Motorsport.com's Japanese edition.

 

"That’s a big factor. It feels like we’ve expanded the range of conditions. Track conditions can change a lot in qualifying, and now we race for 450km, the conditions can change even more. In that sense, it’s really important to have a wide working range.

"That’s the main thing we’ve focused on in development, and it seems to be going well."

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Winning Nissan penalised after mass protest, Bandoh Toyota wins
Next article Studie BMW beats Toyota GT300s at their own strategy game

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

USA