Team Eneos Rookie Toyota drivers Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita won the opening round of the 2022 Super GT season at Okayama from pole position, while the new Nissan Z GT500 took a podium on its debut.
The winners of last year’s Okayama season-opener dominated with the No. 14 Toyota GR Supra GT500 to win Sunday’s 82-lap contest by a 1.798-second margin of victory over the Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX pairing of Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino.
Yamamoto rose to second during an eventful run to the checkered flag after two Full Course Yellow periods disrupted a long spell of green running with 14 and five laps to go.
Another climber in the closing stages was Tsugio Matsuda who brought the brand-new No. 23 NISMO Nissan into third after a starting stint from Ronnie Quintarelli.
Oshima and Yamashita were the class of the GT500 field in their Toyota and largely kept around 10 seconds clear of their nearest challengers once Oshima had established the double-digit advantage 15 laps into the race.
Behind them, several entries held second at different stages of the afternoon, starting with defending champion Yuhi Sekiguchi who started alongside Oshima on the front row.
Sekiguchi lost the position on lap 22 when Yuji Tachikawa placed his Cerumo Toyota down the inside at the Turn 5 hairpin, where most of the overtaking action took place.
The GT500 pit stops occurred around the 30-lap mark, with Yamashita retaining his Toyota’s lead and Sekiguchi’s co-driver Yuichi Nakayama regaining second ahead of the No. 12 Team Impul Nissan which originally ran fifth in the hands of Bertrand Baguette.
Kazuki Hiramine’s late jink to the left of Nakayama at Turn 5 on lap 36 put the blue-liveried Nissan into net second, starting a backward trajectory for the No. 39 SARD Toyota, which lost third to Tachikawa’s teammate Hiroki Ishiura and fourth to Yamamoto.
The first FCY period occurred on lap 68 when damage from an earlier collision caused the hood of the No. 96 Lexus RC F GT3 to detach, causing an unsighted Shinichi Takagi to prematurely turn right into the barriers at Turn 1.
The ensuing green flag triggered a flurry of action in the battle for second overall.
Yamamoto made a brilliant move down the inside at Turn 5 that saw the Honda driver move past both Ishiura and Hiramine, who were racing side-by-side.
Matsuda, whose driving partner Quintarelli had started ninth and pitted from eighth, benefited from the three-wide action into the hairpin to get past Hiramine, making the No. 23 NISMO car the highest-placed Nissan Z in the field.
Matsuda then progressed to third on lap 73 when he out-braked Ishiura into Turn 5.
A second FCY occurred with five laps remaining when Augusto Farfus’ BMW M4 GT3 ended up in the gravel after a tap from the ARTA Honda NSX GT3 Evo22.
Although the field retained its gaps due to no safety car being required, Yamamoto had crept significantly closer to Yamashita and was gaining noticeably on the Toyota, but ran out of laps to make a bid for the win.
Matsuda crossed the line just under two seconds behind Yamamoto, while Ishiura and Tachikawa took fourth in the No. 38 Cerumo Toyota squad.
Katsumasa Chiyo and Mitsunori Takaboshi were fifth in the No. 3 Nissan, ahead of Giuliano Alesi and 2021 champion Sho Tsuboi driving the No. 36 TOM’S Toyota.
Hiramine’s Nissan slipped to seventh at the finish, one place ahead of Nakayama in the SARD Toyota.
Kondo Nissan Wins GT300 Opener
Kiyoto Fujinami and Joao Paulo de Oliveira claimed victory in the GT300 class driving the No. 56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.
The pairing that finished second in last year’s standings moved to the front courtesy of a strong opening stint from Fujinami, who rose from fifth to third on the opening lap before taking second place from the GAINER Nissan on lap 19.
Five laps later, Fujinami seized the lead when he tracked around the outside of Takuto Iguchi’s pole-sitting Subaru BRZ GT300 at Turn 5 before making a switchback into the next left-hander.
Oliveira then put in a strong closing stint to secure the victory, almost 15 seconds ahead of the No. 18 Upgarage Honda of Takashi Kobayashi and Kakunoshin Ohta.
The Subaru dropped to 10th in class after it struggled to fire up after its pit stop, causing a delay that cost it the chance of a podium.