Skyline GT-R's finish 1-2
Fuji International Speedway welcomed a massive turnout of 50,000 fans for Round 4 of the 2001 JGTC season, the turning point leading into the second half of the season. The green light for the 57-lap race was given to a field of 39 cars under cloudy skies.
Pole sitter Ukyo Katayama in the No. 33 Toyota Supra got off to a disappointing start, dropping back to third by the end of the first lap. He fought hard to keep the car competitive, but fell back to fifth by the time he pitted for the routine stop. His team-mate Kondo did his best as well, but the No.33 Supra bumped Sebastien Philippe in the No.18 Honda NSX. Kondo was able to rejoin the race but ended up running off the track again later on. In the end, the No.33 Supra finished 14th.
It was an exciting day for Nissan, the No.23 Penzoil Zexel Skyline GT-R driven by Erik Comas moving from second on the grid into the lead and Michael Krumm starting the No.22 Xanavi Hiroto GT-R from the fourth row and working his way up to fifth position, all before the end of the first lap. Comas controlled the race during his stint behind the wheel, clocking the fastest lap of the race and building a 6-sec gap over the closest car before turning the car over to Masami Kageyama. Krumm drove courageously closing in on the leaders lap by lap, and found himself sitting comfortably in third by the end of the eighth lap. He overtook again, moving into second before pitting for the driver change and giving the wheel to Tetsuya Tanaka.
Kageyama in the No. 23 Penzoil Zexel Skyline GT-R was doing well to keep the lead, but a yellow flag late in the race allowed the field to bunch again and the buffer for the lead was lost. Tetsuya Tanaka in the No.22 Skyline GT-R seized the opportunity to catch him, and overtook his teammate with only seven laps remaining. The two NISMO drivers held their positions and crossed the finish line running 1-2, giving Nissan and the NISMO team their first victory of the season.
"The car ran well compared to yesterday. The setup and engine were fantastic. I made a good start and was able to overtake Ukyo and the No.6 Toyota," said Krumm after the race. "I wanted to catch up with Erik, but he was running as quick as I was. I got a bit emotional when Tetsuya came out in the lead."
Tetsuya Tanaka commented, "As we chose the lighter weight and smaller air-restrictors, the car was not as quick as the others on the straight line, but Michael put up a good fight. Masami was really fair when I passed him. This first victory is the result of true teamwork. All that I can think about at the moment is the series title."
Third place went to the No.6 Esso Ultraflo Supra driven by Juichi Wakisaka and Hideki Noda. The two had their work cut out for them and they did well, running consistently quicker and staying in the top group in spite of a heavy 60kg handicap weight.
The No. 12 Calsonic Skyline GT-R, driven by Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Satoshi Motoyama finished in 7th position.
Michelin tire users suffered setbacks due to lower than expected temperatures. The No.36 Supra driven by Takuya Kurosawa and Takeshi Tsuchiya and the No.37 Supra of Shinichi Yamaji and Wayne Gardner (carrying a 60kg handicap) weren't able to push so hard, and ended up finishing eighth and tenth, respectively.
The young French driver pair, Jeremie Dufour / Romain Dumas, had a long, tough day behind the wheel of the No.39 Supra. Dumas started the race from 12th on the grid and ran smoothly until he suffered a spin on lap eight. He recovered well and was able to continue the race. Dufour drove consistently throughout the second half of the race and finished the day 13th.