The opening round of the Super GT at Okayama saw a thrilling battle between three GT500 machines, won by the duo of Takuya Izawa and Takashi Kogure in the Raybrig HSV-010.
With qualifying being held in strong wind and rain, conditions on race day were completely different as the track was dry beneath a cloudy sky.
Ronnie Quintarelli lead the race early on from pole position in a Nissan GT-R, while the chasing pack battled as the cars fast in wet conditions were caught by the cars which preferred the drier conditions. Naoki Yamamoto, Izawa and Toshihiro Kaneishi, all in HSV-010s, emerged from the battle at the top and began their chase on Quintarelli.
After the halfway stage pit stop and driver change, the three Honda machines continued their battle for second position. The Weilder Modolo machine of Frederic Makoweicki spun out while running in second place and lost his hold on the lead group, leaving Kogure and Koudai Tsukakoshi to hunt down the lead car, now piloted by Masataka Yanagida.
It was then the rain began to fall, catching Yanagida out as he was rapidly caught by the two Hondas, before the three engaged in a thrilling three-way, side-by-side battle for the final ten laps of the race. Yanagida only managed to hold off the chasing duo for five laps before slipping back from the leaders.
The final few laps saw a close battle between Kogure and Tsukakoshi as they fought for track position while trying to pick off backmarkers in the GT300 class. Kogure eventually took the win by a very slim margin.
“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.” said Takuya Izawa. “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.”
It was a different story in GT300, however, as Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Bjorn Wirdheim drove their Mercedes SLS to a dominant win after claiming the lead in the early stages of the race.