Yuke Taniguchi and Alex Imperatori gave Nissan and KCMG their maiden Blancpain GT Series Asia victories at Fuji today after fighting through from sixth on the grid.
Nick Foster and Jono Lester’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari F488 GT3 was second after getting the better of pole-sitters Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss, who completed the podium aboard KCMG’s second GT-R NISMO GT3 despite serving a success penalty.
Nissan backed up its maiden pole position earlier in the day by claiming a first series victory, albeit with the #18 GT-R NISMO GT3 that started sixth.
The opening stint suggested Edoardo Liberati would make good on his qualifying performance. But after initially establishing a 1.3s advantage, the Italian was reeled in and passed by Dennis Lind’s FFF Racing Team Lamborghini, which had moved from third to second amongst the first corner shuffle on lap one.
That put the two cars with the most significant pitstop success penalties – 15s and 10s, respectively – out in front. And with their advantages over the chasing pack roughly the same, much would depend on the driver changes, which began after 25 minutes.
Liberati stopped a lap earlier than Lind and handed over to Florian Strauss who emerged in what would become first. Meanwhile, FFF Racing’s slightly later pitstop wasn’t enough to negate their 15s success penalty, which saw Martin Kodric initially slot into second before dropping to fourth on his out lap.
However, all eyes were soon on the lead battle between KCMG’s two Nissans, the second of which, now driven by Alex Imperatori, enjoyed a standout opening stint in the hands of Taniguchi. The Japanese amateur initially took advantage of contact that sent Sandy Stuvik’s Porsche into the Turn 2 barriers on lap one but looked entirely at home running third overall for most of the first 25 minutes. That was until traffic allowed Nico Bastian, Jono Lester and Martin Rump to pounce in quick succession just before the pit window opened.
Nevertheless, Taniguchi’s excellent work allied to an early pitstop and no success penalty ensured Imperatori was in the mix once the pit window closed. And the former Super GT driver wasted no time taking his chance by passing Strauss at his first opportunity and setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.
While the #18 Nissan sprinted clear, Strauss was soon contending with Nick Foster who’d already dispatched Kodric after taking over from Lester. The pair ran side-by-side for several corners and even made light contact at one point before the Ferrari completed its decisive move.
Behind, Patric Niederhauser, whose GruppeM Mercedes-AMG that he shares with Bastian also served a five-second success penalty, snatched fourth from Kodric on the penultimate lap to reduce his championship deficit.
Two Audis were up next, Rump and Franky Cheng’s Absolute Racing example beating Phoenix Racing Asia’s R8 shared by Alex Yoong and Shaun Thong, while a stellar stint from Davide Rigon helped HubAuto Corsa’s second Ferrari climb from 16th to eighth in the final result.
Porsche Team EBI’s Yamano brothers, Naoya and Tetsuya, were best of the race-by-race entries in ninth as well as one place ahead of OD Racing Team WRT’s Aditya Patel and Mitch Gilbert.
Japanese success continued in the Am Cup class thanks to KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka whose Audi beat AMAC Motorsport’s Lamborghini driven by William Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson.