Takuya Izawa and Tomoki Nojiri claimed victory in Super GT’s Suzuka 300km round after holding off the Team Kunimitsu Honda of ex-Formula 1 champion Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto.
At the start of the race, ARTA Honda driver Izawa got away cleanly from pole position, while Button came under pressure from a fast-starting Nick Cassidy.
The status quo at the front was maintained until lap 14 when Heikki Kovalainen crashed his Sard Lexus at the exit of Degner 2, prompting the race’s sole safety car period.
When the race resumed after four laps, Cassidy went on the offensive and dived down the inside of Button at Turn 1, making the move stick to move up to second.
After dropping behind, the Briton immediately dived into the pits at the end of lap, while Cassidy and Izawa waited longer for their scheduled stops.
Yamamoto, after taking over from Button, put in an outlap nearly four seconds quicker than Nojiri, who had replaced Izawa in the ARTA Honda.
That allowed Yamamoto to not only pass Cassidy’s teammate Ryo Hirakawa, but also bring down Nojiri’s lead virtually down to nil.
Yamamoto stayed on the tail of Nojiri for the next 20 laps, but never managed to attempt a manoeuvre and eventually finished three seconds behind the leader.
Izawa and Nojiri secured ARTA’s first Super GT win since last year’s Fuji 300km race, while Yamamoto and Button took their second podium finish as teammates after their second place at Okayama earlier this year.
Following this result, Button and Yamamoto move to the top of the Super GT standings, one point clear of erstwhile leaders Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.
Behind the leading Honda duo, defending champions Hirakawa and Cassidy finished third in the #1 TOM’S Lexus.
Impul Nissan pair Jann Mardenborough and Daiki Sasaki took fourth place on the final lap of the race after Yuhi Sekiguchi, who shares the #36 TOM’S Lexus with Kazuki Nakajima, went wide at the final corner.
Quintarelli and Matsuda led a fantastic charge from back of the grid in the NISMO-branded GT-R to finish sixth, despite carrying the most ballast of any car, 52kg.
Lexus takes GT300 top spot
In the GT300 class, the LM Corsa Lexus squad converted pole into victory, with Morio Nitta and Yuichi Nakayama taking the top honours.
However, the fight for second place was much closer, with Takamitsu Matsui and Sho Tsuboi eventually claiming the runner-up spot in the #25 Tsuchiya Engineering Toyota,.
Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi finished third in the R&Sport-run Subaru after a enthralling battle in the final dozen laps of the race.