Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto claimed the Super GT drivers’ championship in a tense season finale at Twin Ring Motegi on Sunday.
The Team Kunimitsu Honda duo pipped the Team Keeper TOM’s Lexus pair of Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa by three points after the two crews arrived at the deciding race on equal terms.
Button held off a charging Hirakawa in the final stages to take third in the 250km race and secure the title in the process.
It marked the Englishman’s first title since he won the 2009 Formula 1 world championship, while Yamamoto becomes the fourth driver in history to win both Super GT and Super Formula titles in the same year.
Yamamoto ran second in the opening stint before losing a position in the driver swaps to the Team ZENT Cerumo Lexus of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa.
Button gradually lost sight of Ishiura during the second half of the race, while at the same time Hirakawa was closing in from behind after getting past Kosuke Matsuura’s Honda.
Hirakawa then dramatically reduced the gap to Button to create a straight fight for the championship, but the Japanese driver couldn’t get close enough to make a move before the checkered flag.
Button stood his ground to secure the final spot on the podium, less than two seconds ahead of Hirakawa in the car that Cassidy started from sixth on the grid.
Out front, the ARTA Honda NSX-GT pairing of Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa took a commanding win from pole position, while Ishiura went on to finish second.
The Motegi result adds a second victory to Nojiri and Izawa’s 2018 season after the duo triumphed in round three at Suzuka in May.
K2 R&D LEON Racing secured the GT300 class title after drivers Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou claimed their first victory and podium of the season in the No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Trouble for the pole-sitting Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Marco Mapelli and Kazuki Hiramine, which experienced two punctures, paved the way for the front-row starting Mercedes to lead.
The win enabled Kurosawa and Gamou to overturn a 12-point championship deficit to Sean Walkinshaw and Shinichi Takagi, who could only manage ninth-place in their ARTA-run BMW M6 GT3.