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Cassidy, Hirakawa Win Season-Opener as New Supras Dominate

Toyota Supra GT500s lock out the top five positions in Japanese Super GT season opener…

Photo: Toyota

Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa gave the new Toyota Supra GT500 a victory on its race debut as Team TOM’S scored a one-two in the Super GT Series season-opener at Fuji.

2017 champions Cassidy and Hirakawa dominated Sunday’s 66-lap race in their No. 37 Supra while Yuhi Sekiguchi and Sacha Fenestraz finished second in the sister car.

The new-for-2020 Class One regulation Supra swept the top five positions in the results, marking a successful maiden race outing for the car that has replaced the Lexus LC 500.

Cassidy controlled the opening stint from pole position, once the race fully got underway on lap five after an early safety car was called to recover Daiki Sasaki’s crashed Nissan.

The New Zealander, who was recently confirmed as a 2020-21 Formula E driver with Envision Virgin Racing, then extended his advantage over Fenestraz and the rest of the field to around 14 seconds going into the mid-race pit stops.

French driver Fenestraz started from fourth but moved up two places in the opening stint, getting past the Honda NSX-GTs of Nirei Fukuzimi and Naoki Yamamoto.

Almost immediately after the pit stops, the field was placed under safety car conditions again which erased the substantial lead that Hirakawa had inherited from Cassidy.

But Hirakawa successfully controlled the pace at the restart on lap 43 and proceeded to rebuild part of the gap to ultimately clinch the win by five seconds.

Sekiguchi came through in second after maintaining that position through the second stint, although the TOM’S driver needed to monitor the advancing Team Wako’s Rookie’s Toyota Supra of Sho Tsuboi in the closing laps.

Tsuboi made a terrific charge into the podium positions after taking the reins of the No. 14 Toyota from reigning drivers’ champion Kazuya Oshima.

Tsuboi emerged from the driver swaps in sixth position but moved into the top five with a lunge underneath Tomoki Nojiri who had taken over the No. 8 Honda from Fukuzumi.

Tsuboi then struck twice on the run out of the final corner, first surprising No. 38 ZENT Cerumo Toyota driver Hiroaki Ishiura before going on to pass Yamamoto’s Honda co-driver Tadasuke Makino for third after picking up a run on the front straight.

In this same sequence, Makino dropped from third to fifth as Ishiura, who shared driving duties with Yuji Tachikawa, got past the No. 100 Kunimitsu Honda driver into Turn 1.

A further overtake from Heikki Kovalainen’s Team SARD Toyota stand-in Kenta Yamashita on Makino ensured that Supras filled out the top five places, leaving the best Honda sixth.

Nissan’s highest-placed entry was the GT-R Nismo driven by Katsumasa Chiyo and Kohei Hirate in seventh, while the Honda of Nojiri and Fukuzumi which started second finished eighth.

Toyota won in both the GT500 and GT300 divisions, as Hiroki Yoshida and Kota Kawaai claimed the honors in the secondary class with their GR Supra.

GAINER’s No. 11 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 finished three seconds behind while the Team MAC Toyota 86 mother chassis machine rounded out the top three.

RESULTS: Fuji 300km

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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