Motegi SUPER GT: Yamamoto holds off Miyata to win for Honda

Kunimitsu Honda duo Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino claimed their first SUPER GT victory of the 2021 SUPER GT season at Motegi after Yamamoto resisted the advances of Toyota’s Ritomo Miyata.

Makino made a clean start from pole position to hold an early lead in the #1 Stanley-sponsored NSX-GT and proceeded to build a small buffer over the chasing Bandoh GR Supra then driven by 2016 Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto.

But as the leaders caught up with the GT300 field, Kunimoto appeared to do a much better job in navigating through traffic, rapidly closing in on Makino’s Honda.

Finally, on lap 7, Kunimoto was close enough to attempt a move, setting up a pass around the outside of Turn 5 before completing the overtake at the Turn 7 left-hander.

Once out in front, Kunimoto was able to extend his advantage in one of the only two Yokohama-shod cars in GT500, as Makino started falling into the clutches of the #36 TOM’S.

However, the complexion of the race changed again when Kunimitsu elected to bring Makino early into the pits on lap 24, with Yamamoto taking over the wheel from his countryman.

The Bandoh Toyota didn’t stop until four laps later, which meant Miayata emerged from the pits in second after taking over from Kunimoto, dropping five seconds behind the Kunimitsu Honda after completing his out lap on cold tyres.

As the second half of the stint wore on, Miyata set about chasing Yamamoto for the lead and like his teammate Kunimoto was able to make major in-roads in traffic.

By lap 37 Miyata was right on the tail of Yamamoto and even attempted a pass at one occasion, only for the reigning champion to rebuff all his attempts.

Two separate but short-lived full course yellow periods provided Yamamoto a much-needed break and Miyata could never close down the gap again, the 33-year-old taking the flag by 3.2s.

The result marked the first win for Yamamoto and Makino since they triumphed at last year’s dramatic finale at Fuji Speedway to claim the title, and ended a mini-slump for the two-time GT500 champion in both of Japan’s premier racing categories.

#1 STANLEY NSX-GT

#1 STANLEY NSX-GT

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Miyata and Kunimoto were unable to end a five-year win drought for tyre manufacturer Yokohama, but second represented the first podium for the Bandoh squad since SUPER GT’s last visit to Thailand in 2019.

Yuhi Sekiguchi and Sho Tsuboi bagged their second podium finish of the season in the #36 TOM’S Toyota, having passed the Red Bull-sponsored Mugen of Ukyo Sasahara and Toshiki Oyu on the opening lap of the race.

Sasahara also lost a place to the sister #37 TOM’S Toyota but was able to repass the car at the end of his stint to reclaim fourth position.

ARTA Honda drivers Tomoki Nojiri and Nirei Fukuzumi leapt from ninth to fifth, aided by an early stop on lap 23.

The B-Max/NDDP squad was Nissan’s top runner in sixth, Kohei Hirate bringing home the car he shares with Katsumasa Chiyo ahead of the #37 TOM’S of Ryo Hirakawa and Sena Sakaguchi - which lost time when a GT300 Mercedes made an error in the pitlane entry.

Hirakawa, however, was able to pass the Cerumo Toyota of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa at the second FCY restart to regain one position and finish seventh.

The NISMO team clinched its first points of the season after two tricky races at Okayama and Fuji, Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda crossing the finish line in ninth ahead of the SARD Toyota of Heikki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama.

Rookie Racing Toyota pair Kenta Yamashita and Kazuya Oshima finished out of the points in 13th, saddled by a 70kg handicap, but maintain the championship lead by three points ahead of Yamamoto.

Fuji winners Bertrand Baguette and Koudai Tsukakoshi failed to finish in their Real Racing Honda owing to a gear selection problem.

Lotus takes GT300 honours

Lotus claimed a surprise win in the GT300 ranks after the operation run jointly by Inging and Cars Tokai Dream28 was fortunate to time its pitstop just as a FCY was deployed.

#2 muta Racing Lotus MC

#2 muta Racing Lotus MC

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Ryohei Sakaguchi was then able to hold off the #11 Gainer Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Katsuyuki Hiranaka in the closing stages to claim victory for himself and teammate Hiroki Katoh.

Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda finished 1.5s behind in second, as Kohta Kawaai and Hiroki Yoshida completed the podium spots in the Saitama Toyopet Green Brave Toyota Supra after passing the Max Racing Supra of Atsushi Miyake and Yuui Tsutsumi.

The Goodsmile Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 completed the top five on the team's 100th start in SUPER GT, but ran as high as third after opting for an early stop before slipping behind the two Supras late on.

Kondo Racing lost a likely podium finish when Joao Paulo de Oliveira collided with the #88 JLOC Lamborghini on lap 27, suffering serious damage to his #56 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.

Reigning champions De Oliveira and teammate Kiyoto Fujinami had qualified third on the grid despite carrying 72kg of ballast following their victory in the season opener at Okayama. 

GT500 race results:

Pos.

No.

Drivers

Team

Car

Tyre

Gap

1

1

Japan Naoki Yamamoto

Japan Tadasuke Makino

Kunimitsu

Honda

B

63 laps

2

19

Japan Yuji Kunimoto

Japan Ritomo Miyata

Racing Project Bandoh

Toyota

Y

3.221

3

36

Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi

Japan Sho Tsuboi

TOM’S

Toyota

B

11.880

4

16

Japan Ukyo Sasahara

Japan Toshiki Oyu

Mugen

Honda

D

29.226

5

8

Japan Tomoki Nojiri

Japan Nirei Fukuzumi

ARTA

Honda

B

30.521

6

3

Japan Kohei Hirate

Japan Katsumasa Chiyo

NDDP/B-Max

Nissan

M

54.164

7

37

Japan Ryo Hirakawa

Japan Sena Sakaguchi

TOM'S

Toyota

B

56.742

8

38

Japan Yuji Tachikawa

Japan Hiroaki Ishiura

Cerumo

Toyota

B

57.272

9

23

Italy Ronnie Quintarelli

Japan Tsugio Matsuda

NISMO

Nissan

M

57.773

10

39

Finland Heikki Kovalainen

Japan Yuichi Nakayama

SARD

Toyota

B

58.320

11

12

Japan Kazuki Hiramine

Japan Nobuharu Matsushita

Impul

Nissan

B

1'06.557

12

24

Japan Mitsunori Takaboshi

Japan Daiki Sasaki

Kondo Racing

Nissan

Y

1'16.082

13

14

Japan Kazuya Oshima

Japan Kenta Yamashita

Rookie Racing

Toyota

B

1 lap

Ret

17

Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi

Belgium Bertrand Baguette

Real Racing

Honda

B

14 laps

Ret

64

Japan Takuya Izawa

Japan Hiroki Otsu

Nakajima Racing

Honda

D

20 laps

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