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TOM’S Beats Rookie Racing in Toyota 1-2 at Suzuka

TOM’S duo Ukyo Sasahara, Giuliano Alesi victorious after penalty for Rookie Toyota…

Photo: Konishi Yuya

TOM’S duo Ukyo Sasahara and Giuliano Alesi converted pole position into a long-awaited first SUPER GT victory at Suzuka, but only after fellow Toyota team Rookie Racing lost a likely win to a drive-through penalty.

Sasahara and Alesi led home a 1-2 for Toyota GR Supra teams aboard the No. 37 car, 10.968 seconds clear of Rookie duo Kazuya Oshima and Nirei Fukuzumi at the end of what turned out to be a dry three-hour race despite predictions of rain.

The turning point of the race came shortly after the second round of pitstops, as Sasahara and Oshima were running nose-to-tail in the fight for the lead before the former came in to hand over to Alesi on lap 60 of 92.

With clear air, Oshima turned in two fast laps before coming in for his stop, with Fukuzumi coming out on track some six seconds clear of Alesi after taking over at the wheel of the No. 14 car.

But just as Fukuzumi looked on course to score his first win since joining Toyota, the Rookie squad was hit with a penalty for an unsafe release, as the Kunimitsu Honda Civic Type R-GT of Naoki Yamamoto had been forced to check up as Fukuzumi left his box.

With Fukuzumi dropping from first to fourth after the drive-through, Alesi inherited a lead of 10 seconds over the second-placed No. 16 ARTA Honda of Hiroki Otsu.

A mistake-free final stint from Alesi secured a first win for both he and Sasahara, a first for the No. 37 TOM’S side of the garage since 2022, and a second of the season for the team as a whole after the No. 36 crew’s Okayama win.

Fukuzumi meanwhile charged forward from fourth to second after serving his penalty, passing both the No. 36 TOM’S car of Kenta Yamashita and Otsu to grab second, but there was little he could do about the gap to Alesi at the head of the field.

The ARTA Honda of Otsu and Ren Sato completed the podium, putting the new Civic on the podium for the third time in as many races, although Otsu only held off a charging Bertrand Baguette in the Impul Nissan Z by half a second at the finish.

Yamashita brought home the championship-leading No. 36 TOM’S car he shares with Sho Tsuboi for another top-five finish despite having the heaviest success handicap in the field, including the stage one fuel flow restrictor.

A last-lap battle for sixth between the Kunimitsu and Real Racing Honda crews was resolved in favour of the latter as Kakunoshin Ohta dived up the inside of Yamamoto to snatch the position at the final chicane.

NISMO suffered a race to forget as the Fuji-winning No. 3 car of Mitsunori Takaboshi and Atsushi Miyake struggled to a low-key eighth with their fuel flow restrictor, falling seven points behind Tsuboi and Yamashita in the championship standings.

Faring even worse was the No. 23 machine which ended up 10th after Katsumasa Chiyo picked up a drive-through penalty for rear-ending Toshiki Oyu’s Cerumo Toyota during a multi-car battle at the chicane during the second stint.

Oyu’s car sustained significant rear-end damage and was forced into retirement.

Also suffering another non-finish was the No. 8 ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri and Nobuharu Matsushita due to gearbox trouble.

D’station Takes Dominant Win in GT300

D’station Racing converted pole position into victory in the GT300 class, giving the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo its first SUPER GT win in only its third start.

Tomonobu Fujii and Charlie Fagg controlled the race from the start, showing commanding pace throughout all three stints and taking the checkered flag by 35 seconds ahead of Inging Toyota pair Hibiki Taira and Yuui Tsutsumi.

Although the D’station car led its class for most of the distance, its conventional strategy of changing all four tires at both stops briefly dropped it behind the apr Lexus LC500h, which gained an advantage by not changing tires at the first stop.

Fagg was at the wheel of the Aston for the middle stint and was able to pass the Lexus of Kazuto Kotaka at Spoon Curve to retake the lead before handing over to Fujii, who went on to secure the Evo version of the Vantage’s first win in global competition.

The apr Lexus dropped back with a relatively early second stop as Kotaka handed over to Jin Nakamura, while Inging took the opposite approach with a full-service first stop and a splash late in the race, which allowed Taira and Tsutsumi to climb the order.

Completing the podium was the Team LeMans Ferrari 296 GT3 of Roberto Merhi and Yoshiaki Katayama after Merhi passed Nakamura’s Lexus at the hairpin, while Hiroki Yoshida and Seita Nonaka finished fifth in the Saitama Green Brave Toyota GR Supra.

Taira and Tsutsumi now enjoy a 17-point lead over the No. 88 JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Takashi Kogure and Yuya Motojima, which failed to score after starting from the pit lane following its troubles in qualifying.

Subaru’s factory BRZ lost what appeared to be a strong chance of a podium finish with mechanical problem after the first round of stops.


Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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