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Nojiri, Fukuzumi Dominate at Motegi after Well-Timed Pit Stop

Aguri Honda wins penultime round of season as Tsukakoshi, Baguette takes points lead…

Photo: Super GT

Tomoki Nojiri and Nirei Fukuzumi dominated at Motegi to become the fifth different winners of the 2020 Super GT season while Koudai Tsukakoshi and Bertrand Baguette came away with the championship lead heading into the title decider later this month.

The timing of the only safety car of the race during the pit cycle played into the hands of Nojiri and Fukuzumi’s ARTA Team Aguri Honda NSX-GT and the Modulo Nakajima Racing Honda of Hiroki Otsu and Takuya Izawa who finished second.

Nojiri led at the end of the opening stint after passing pole-sitter Otsu into the Turn 1 right-hander on lap 10, before Tadasuke Makino split the pair with a lunge into Turn 11 on Otsu who was seemingly struggling with his Dunlop tires in the opening stanza.

Nojiri and Otsu were the two earliest front-runners to make their pit stops after 23 laps.

The defining moment of the 63-lap race then occurred seconds later when the safety car came out for a GT300 car stranded in a hazardous position at the side of the track.

This meant that when the rest of the GT500 field pitted under the safety car conditions, Fukuzumi and Izawa sailed into a massive advantage while no further interruptions ensured they stayed far ahead for the remainder of the contest.

A terrific stint from Fukuzumi saw the lead over Izawa extend from under five seconds to 46 seconds at the checkered flag.

Makino and Naoki Yamamoto completed the podium, a minute and 10 seconds down on the winner, as Honda entries occupied the top five finishing positions.

Yamamoto crossed the line ahead of Ukyo Sasahara, whose Team Red Bull Mugen NSX started by Hideki Mutoh gained several positions during the safety car pit stops.

Tsukakoshi and Baguette completed the top five in their Honda to take the lead of the championship after the top five crews arrived at Motegi separated by just two points.

On lap 48, Tsukakoshi swept around the outside of Nissan driver Tsugio Matsuda at Turns 1 and 2 to seize fifth after a strong opening stint charge from Baguette who advanced four positions from his 10th-place starting spot. 

Matsuda, who won last time out at Suzuka with Ronnie Quintarelli, then lost another place to Ryo Hirakawa who was the top Toyota GR Supra GT500 finisher in sixth.

Hirakawa was joined this weekend by reigning series champion Kenta Yamashita with the Tom’s team’s regular drive  Nick Cassidy absent on Formula E duties.

Tsukakoshi and Baguette will carry 51 points heading into the season finale at Fuji, with the Keihin Real Racing pair only ahead of Hirakawa in the standings on countback.

Matsuda and Quintarelli are now third in the standings and level on 49 points with Team Kunimitsu’s Yamamoto and Makino.

Sho Tsuboi and Kazuya Oshima, who came in as championship leaders, failed to score points after finishing outside the top 10 with their Toyota.

They will head to Fuji on the 47 points they had upon arrival at Motegi, while Nojiri and Fukuzumi are now in title contention having moved onto 48 points with victory.

The previous-best result for Nojiri and Fukuzumi was a pair of third-place finishes from pole in the last two rounds at Fuji and Suzuka.

GT300 class honors went to Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujinami who won for the second time this season in their Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.

Oliveira crossed the line a second ahead of the Goodsmile Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo driven by Tatsuya Kataoka and Nobuteru Taniguchi which was the only other car classified on the lead lap as the safety car also impacted the secondary class.

Takuya Otaki and Takayuki Aoki rounded out the top three in GT300 with their Tomei Sports Nissan.

RESULTS: Motegi 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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