Izawa and Kogure victorious in a dramatic battle in Okayama
Magnificent 3-way contest between the HSV-010 and GT-R teams
The Okayama GT 300 km race, round 1 of the 2013 Autobacs Super GT, took place at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km x 82 laps). The dramatic GT500 class race saw three machines battling side-by-side in the latter stages, with the Raybrig HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa/Takashi Kogure) victorious in the end to win the opening round of the 2013 season.
After a large low-pressure system brought strong rain and wind throughout the previous day’s qualifying, the weather on race day at Okayama was cloudy. With a dry track the conditions were completely different from the qualifying. The race started on schedule at 14:00. In the early stages of the racing action, Ronnie Quintarelli in the pole-starting Motul Autech GT-R took the lead and tried to stay ahead of the pack. After that, however, the would develop into a tight contest with the cars that had performed well on the wet track in Saturday’s qualifying being chased by the ones that were faster in dry conditions. Emerging from the brawl to chase the leader were three of their rivals: the Weider Modolo HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto), the Raybrig HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) and the Keihin HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi).
After the required pit stop and driver change, the race entered its second half. As the battle for second place heated up among the three Honda machines, the Weider Modolo HSV-010 (Frederic Makowiecki) spun out alone while running in 2nd place and fell out of the lead group. After that, the Raybrig HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure) and the Keihin HSV-010 (Koudai Tsukakoshi) chased down the leading Motul Autech GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) at a bristling pace. The drizzling rain that began to fall around this stage in the race and making the track slippery. With that as a factor, Yanagida in the Nissan GT-R was having trouble keeping a fast pace. Soon the two Honda machines caught up with him with 10 laps remaining in the race and staged a thrilling 3-way, side-by-side battle.
With five laps remaining, Yanagida in the Motul car could no longer hold his two rivals off and both went past him, first Kogure in the Raybrig machine and then Tsukakoshi in the Keihin car. In the few remaining laps, it was a tense race between the two Honda HSV-010 GT machines that included maneuvering past GT300 class back markers right into the final lap. In the end, the Raybrig HSV-010 managed to take the checkered first by a slim margin, and in doing so, Izawa and Kogure presented their team with its first victory in seven years. It was the first win for the Raybrig HSV-010’s Team Kunimitsu since Round 7 of the series in September 2006, and its sixth GT500 win overall. For Izawa, this was his third win, and for Kogure, who joined the team this season, it is his eighth win. For the Honda HSV-010 GT this is its seventh win overall.
In the GT300 class race, the Ganer Dixcel SLS (Mercedes Benz SLS) driven by Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Bjorn Wirdheim started from 3rd position, gained the lead in the early stages of the race and went on unchallenged to a runaway victory.
This is the second win in a row for the Gainer team at Okayama and its sixth overall in the GT300 class. The Mercedes Benz SLS debuted in the Super GT GT300 class last season and this is its first win.
No.100 Raybrig HSV-010 [GT500]
Takuya Izawa: “Last year we just missed getting the win here in the opening round at Okayama, so I felt very disappointed, and it ended up being a tough season for the HSV-010 GT. But during the off-season the people at the Honda research department worked hard to develop us a great machine and the people at Bridgestone were also determined to make a strong comeback. Also, with Kogure-san coming to the team this season as my new partner, it was a situation where I felt that we had to get a win. What’s more, I have been told that our team is probably the one that has been farthest from victory in the GT500 class for some time, so I am very pleased with this victory today.”
Takashi Kogure: “I came to Team Kunimitsu this season, but this is actually the first time I have changed teams since coming to SUPER GT and everything has been new for me. But they have put together a team organization and members that can aim for the championship title, and the determination of the not only the team but also the people at Honda and Bridgestone has given me strong motivation. So, I’m glad we won. But, we can’t sit on our laurels now, because this is going to be the last season for the HSV-010 GT, I want to win the title and pay back everyone around me for their great efforts.”
No.11 Ganer Dixcel SLS [GT300]
Katsuyuki Hiranaka: “In a word, I’m very relieved to get this win. This year a very fast driver in Bjorn [Wirdheim] has come to the team and Mercedes Benz has prepared us a new car. As for the tire, Dunlop has worked very hard on the development and given us tires that can handle a long race, and we have got plenty of test data for us to work from. The team has been doing everything possible to win, so I felt some real pressure to win. So, I am honestly very relieved that we were able to win.”
Bjorn Wirdheim: “I came into this race in a different car and with different tires from last season, but Hiranaka-san and I have been friends for some time and I know he is someone I can trust, and since it is a veteran team in the GT300 class, I wasn’t worried about anything. Also, we were able to do plenty of tests in the off-season that enabled me to make the necessary adjustments in my driving. In the official practice on Saturday, I could feel that we had a fast package and that increased my confidence. So, I’m really glad we won.”
Super GT Series
Reigning champions Yanagida/Quintarelli win the Okayama qualifying
Season’s opening at Okayama without satisfactory results for Couto and Caldarelli