Lexus Team TOM’S driver Nick Cassidy survived a late Safety Car restart to win the opening race in the SUPER GT x DTM Dream Race double-header after starting from pole position at the Fuji Speedway.
Cassidy narrowly beat the Real Racing Honda of Koudai Tsukakoshi by 0.433 seconds, having led by a comfortable margin prior to the Safety Car’s deployment – triggered by Daiki Sasaki’s Team Impul Nissan stopping towards the end of the main straight.
The New Zealander – who had claimed pole position in the wet ahead of Audi Sport Team Phoenix‘s Loïc Duval, a car that didn’t take the start – also faced brief competition at the restart from Naoki Yamamoto in the Raybrig Honda, but the Japanese quickly fell out of touch.
Yamamoto and the fast-starting Ronnie Quintarelli assumed the rest of the top three spots behind Cassidy at the beginning of the 55-minute race, with Audi Sport Abt Sportsline‘s Mike Rockenfeller the lead DTM Series car in fourth.
Quintarelli seemingly struggled with the handling of his NISMO Nissan and haemorrhaged places, falling to eighth by the time of his pitstop 20 minutes into the race.
While Yamamoto and Tsukakoshi soon followed the Italian’s lead in making their mandatory pitstops, Cassidy decided to extend his stint for a further two laps and rejoined around five seconds ahead of the pair and still in the net lead of the race.
But the newly-crowned Super Formula champion saw his advantage truncated by the emergence of the Safety Car in the closing 10 minutes and was forced to turn his attentions to an Indianapolis-style restart.
Opting to take the defensive line into Turn 1, as a slight drizzle threatened to further complicate matters, Cassidy shrugged off the half-hearted attack launched by Tsukakoshi – but struggled to pull out any imitation of the margin he enjoyed before the neutralisation.
Kenta Yamashita and Sho Tsuboi‘s fourth and fifth places, respectively, ensured that the Lexus LC500‘s send-off weekend started in a positive fashion, ahead of former SUPER GT driver Benoît Tréluyer in the highest-placed DTM car for WRT Hitotsuyama Audi.
Yuhi Sekiguchi (Lexus Team TOM’S) had flirted with the frontrunners in the mid-part of the race, but had to fend off DTM champion René Rast (Audi Sport Team Rosberg) at the restart; the pair separated by 0.131s at the flag in seventh and eighth.
Rast had an eventful race, usually running inside the top 10, and even battled for a top five spot before his sole stop.
Yuji Tachikawa and Hideki Mutoh rounded out the top 10 for Lexus Team Cerumo and Team Mugen Honda – the latter putting on a sterling recovery drive from a pitlane start, forced by a heavy crash in Friday Practice that compromised his Qualifying session.
Sasaki, Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing Honda) and Alex Zanardi (BMW Team RBM) all retired from the race with mechanical issues.
BMW did briefly send Zanardi back out on track at the time of Safety Car, but it proved to be a mere installation run to check repairs.
|18||11||Marco Wittmann||BMW||+1 lap|
|19||12||Daiki Sasaki||Nissan||+7 laps/Mechanical|