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Izawa, Nojiri Inherit Okayama Victory After Rain Stops Play

Izawa wins after Tsukakoshi penalty for contact with defending champion Yamamoto…

Photo: Super GT

A post-race penalty for the No. 17 Honda crew saw Takuya Izawa and Tomoki Nojiri inherit victory in a rain-shortened Japanese Super GT season-opener at Okayama.

Sunday’s race was originally advertised as a 300km contest that would run to 82 laps, however poor weather conditions and a pair of red flag crashes brought proceedings to an end after just 31 laps.

Izawa, who started 5th in the No. 8 ARTA Honda NSX-GT, worked his way into the top three after the field was released from a safety car start.

He then progressed to second when defending series champion and race leader Naoki Yamamoto was bumped off-track by Koudai Tsukakoshi in the No. 17 Keihin Real Racing Honda, which led to Tsukakoshi incurring a 34-second time penalty that handed Izawa the win.

Yamamoto, who was planned to share driving duties with Jenson Button, moved into the lead after the initial safety car getaway past Nissan drivers Ronnie Quintarelli – who started from pole – and Daiki Sasaki.

He was followed closely by Tsukakoshi who then bunched up onto the tail of the leading No. 1 Team Kunimitsu Honda when the first of two race stoppages occurred after an accident in the GT300 pack.

Tsukakoshi then eyed up a move on Yamamoto, which resulted in contact between the two NSX-GTs and set Tsukakoshi in front before a second GT300 crash combined with worsening conditions caused the race to be stopped altogether.

Izawa’s co-driver Nojiri didn’t get to drive after the race was brought to a halt just after one-third distance, while half points were applied to reflect the race’s abandonment.

Following Tsukakoshi’s penalty, which dropped the No. 17 Honda down to 14th, Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda assumed second position while Sasaki and James Rossiter completed the podium.

Nissan crews also finished fourth and fifth, with Kohei Hirate and Frederic Makowiecki classified in fourth ahead of Mitsunori Takaboshi and Jann Mardenborough.

Yamamoto’s contact at the restart plummeted the No. 1 Honda down to 15th and off the lead lap.

GT300 class honors went to Morio Nitta and Sena Sakaguchi in the No. 96 KTunes Racing Lexus RCF GT3, as six different manufacturers occupied the top six positions.

Team Aguri’s Honda NSX GT3 Evo finished second, ahead of the No. 52 Toyota Mark X MC and the No. 61 Subaru BRZ.

Rounding out the top five was Kondo Racing’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 while the Leon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 came through in sixth.

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

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