Two Fast Supras Dominate the Long 500km Race
Fuji International Speedway welcomed a huge crowd of 51,000 spectators for the first 500km GT race.
The green light of the 114-lap race was given under cloudy skies. An excellent start off the line for Okada in the No.30 McLaren gained him the lead into the first corner and the attention of the crowd. Breathing down his neck were Tachikawa (No.38 au CERUMO Supra) and Wakisaka (No.6 Esso Ultraflo Supra). Okada initially managed to hold the Supra charge off, but both made it by the McLaren on lap 4. Okada drove well keeping in the front-running group until he put the car through a spin on lap 23. Having damaged a tire in the incident, he was forced to pit, throwing the team's strategy into confusion. The worst possible then happened. The No.30 McLaren rolled to a stop at the last corner out of fuel. Andre Couto, waiting in the pit wearing helmet, watched the McLaren challenge end without driving a single lap.
Wakisaka in the No. 6 Supra pushed well to keep the pace set by Tachikawa, who had built up a 5-6 second over him. Both the first and second running Supras steadily increased the gap over third placed Philippe in the No.18 Honda NSX. It was evident that none could match the speed of the two Supras. Dufour, in the No.39 Denso SARD Supra, quickly worked his way up through the field early in the race, and was sitting in fourth when he passed the wheel to teammate Masahiko Kageyama. A bit off the rhythm, the car started losing positions around mid-race.
Coming out of the first routine pit stops, fine pit work for the No.6 car put second driver Noda into first place and the No.38 Supra, now driven by Takeuchi, in second. A crash on lap 45 brought out the Safety Car for five laps and gave an opportunity for the field to tighten up a bit.
The highlight mid-race was an impressive performance by two Skyline GT-R's of the NISMO team. With Krumm behind the wheel, the No.22 Xanavi Hiroto Skyline caught the No.18 and No.100 NSX's and overtook both at once at the end of the straight on lap 56. The German driver carried and held position through the end of the race, earning a well-deserved third place finish.
Krumm: "We had a good race today. The NISMO team made good pit stops and Tetsuya (Tanaka) ran a really good race. I was able to attack late in the race with soft compound tires. I'm very happy to be on the podium."
NISMO teammate Comas drove his way into fourth going into the final stage, but a violent crash in the last corner by Philippe in the No.18 TAKATA DOME NSX brought the Safety Car back onto the track. Philippe was fortunately able to escape from the overturned car, and the race neutralized again waiting for the Safety Car to retire. The green light was given again with only three laps remaining. The No.100 NSX (Iida) charged hard on Comas in the No. 23 Pennzoil Zexel GT-R, and the French driver had to do everything to hold Iida off. Successful he was, taking the checkered flag in fourth.
Tachikawa back at the wheel of the No.38 Supra made a last chance charge on the No.6 Supra now driven by Wakisaka, trimming the gap substantially but not enough to challenge the lead, giving the No.6 Esso Ultraflo Supra the victory.
Wakisaka: "I didn't push so hard at the start. I was confident that we could reverse the position with the pit work. Noda did an excellent job of increasing the gap over second running No.38 car, so all I had to do was cruise."
Noda: "The mistake for the No.38 car in the pit allowed to run easily. I hope to win when we can and continue to get points consistently from now on."