Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto moved to the top of the Japanese Super GT standings with their first win of the season at Sportsland Sugo.
The Team Kunimitsu pair came out on top in a close-fought 300km race that saw pole-sitter Yamamoto lose his lead in the opening stint before Button reclaimed the No. 100 Honda NSX-GT’s advantage.
Yamamoto was overtaken by Jann Mardenborough before the pit stops but the lead swapped back after the Kunimitsu team elected to bring its car in slightly earlier than the Team Impul Nissan GT-R crew.
That move brought Button out right behind Mardenborough’s team-mate Daiki Sasaki and the 2009 Formula 1 world champion was soon able to find a way through.
Button led the rest of the second stint but came under increasing pressure from the Team Aguri Honda NSX-GT of Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa in the closing stages.
Nojiri worked his way Sasaki before setting off in pursuit of the Kunimitsu Honda until he was right on Button’s tail.
Button, whose last race win came at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, managed to hold off Nojiri in a tense final six laps to win by half a second, marking his first-ever GT victory and Yamamoto’s first in the series since 2015.
Sasaki came through to complete the podium for his and Mardenborough’s best result of the year, while Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima took fourth in their Honda.
Victory for Button and Yamamoto means they now lead the GT500 standings with 61 points heading into the final two races, with Nojiri and Izawa 12 points behind.
A scoreless weekend for former leaders Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa, meanwhile, dropped the Lexus pair to third in the drivers’ championship.
In the GT300 class, the pole-sitting Subaru BRZ driven by Hideki Yamauchi and Takuto Iguchi won for the first time this season, having started from pole.
Yamauchi built a lead of almost 10 seconds in the opening stint, giving his co-driver clean air for the second half of the race.
Iguchi crossed the line six seconds ahead of the No. 10 GAINER Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, while the No. 0 Goodsmile Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 finished third.
RESULTS: Sugo 300km