Hot Day, Hot Supras Battle!
As the cars did warm-up laps and headed for the grid, the 43,000 fans at Sepang International Circuit were being driven to a fit of excitement by the sounds of the engines, the waves from the drivers, and, of course, the smiles of the ever so popular race queens. The outside temperature was hovering at 32° C and the humidity had everybody drenched with sweat within minutes of standing on the hot tarmac. The track temperature was 41° C, actually cooler than many teams had expected.
The green light for the start was given on the first time around and Takeuchi led the field into the corner in the No.38 au CERUMO Supra. Kato in the No.18 TAKATA DOME NSX had a slow start from 4th and suffered an intermittent power-steering problem after contacting Dominik Schwager going by on the inside of the first corner. Schwager in the No. 64 Mobil 1 NSX was charging hard from the start, trying several times to squeeze by the No.22 Xanavi Hiroto Skyline GT-R being driven by Tetsuya Tanaka. The Toyotas proved to be too powerful to run with in the early stages and Takeshi Tsuchiya forced his way by Schwager going in to lap 5.
The driver changes started on lap 22 and continued for the next ten laps. There were no mishaps other than the malfunction of the cooling suit system of Tachikawa's No.38 au CERUMO Supra which would prove to be disasterous later in the race. Kato and Philippe had an excellent change and were able to make up several positions with their stop.
On lap 28, Wayne Gardner had the bad fortune of having his brake pedal fail as he approached turn 7 in fourth gear. Unable to slow the car at all, he went screaming off the track, through the gravel and into the tire barrier on the outside of the turn. He was able to turn the car slightly so that the force of the impact was absorbed by the left front bodywork and was thankful to have escaped without injury. You really scared us with that one, Wayne!
On lap 38, Tachikawa in the No. 38 Toyota Supra caught up with Noda in the No.6 Supra and an intense battle for the lead ensued. Tachikawa drove to the inside of the first turn and passed Noda only to have overshot his braking after which Noda smartly passed him back on the exit of the corner. Then Noda was held up by GT300 leader Yanagida momentarily and Tachikawa capitalized by taking a faster line onto the back straight and pulling level with Noda. Noda wasn't about to give up the lead without a fight and outbraked Tachikawa into the next turn. Unfortunately, Noda's Esso Ultraflo Supra slid to the outside of the turn and Tachikawa was waiting hungrily on the inside to squeeze by. Ten laps later, Tachikawa pulled grogily into the pits, overcome with heat exhaustion and had to be pulled from his car. Takeuchi took the wheel again while the team drenched Tachikawa with ice water. Tachikawa went to the circuit doctor for examination but is doing just fine.
By the end of the race, Philippe in the No. 18 Honda NSX had caught up to Noda and wanted to pass for the lead, but Noda wasn't going to hear of it. Philippe commented after the race that Noda had made several daring moves to get around lap traffic and hold onto his lead. Noda in the No.6 Esso Ultraflo Supra took the checkered flag 5 seconds ahead of Philippe in the No. 18 NSX and celebrated with a series of wheel-spinning "donuts" after his cool down lap. Matsuda in the No.64 NSX passed Michael Krumm in the No.22 Skyline GT-R on the last lap to finish third, but was sorely disappointed when the stewards assessed a +60 seconds time-penalty after the race for passing in a yellow flag zone. Erik Comas and Masami Kageyama moved up to fourth and Hidetoshi Mitsusada and Ryo Michigami in the No.1 Loctite MUGEN NSX were promoted to fifth place.