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TOM’S Toyota Opens Title Defense With Victory

Sho Tsuboi, Kenta Yamashita give TOM’S Toyota squad perfect start to new SUPER GT season at Okayama…


TOM’S pair Sho Tsuboi and Kenta Yamashita opened the new SUPER GT season with a dominant victory at Okayama International Circuit, leading a Toyota GR Supra 1-2.

From pole position, Tsuboi and Yamashita never looked truly threatened at the head of the field, as starting driver Tsuboi quickly gapped the field after an early safety car period following contact on the opening lap of the race.

Two cars were effectively eliminated in the melee, the No. 14 Rookie Racing Toyota and the No. 17 Real Racing Honda Civic Type R-GT, as Kazuya Oshima’s Rookie car was tipped into a spin by the Impul Nissan Z of Bertrand Baguette exiting Revolver corner.

Once the race resumed, Tsuboi pulled away from the second-placed SARD Toyota of Yuhi Sekiguchi, pitting on lap 32 of 82 to hand over to Yamashita, who was able to manage the advantage and take the checkered flag 11 seconds clear.

The battle for second was more closely-fought as Sekiguchi was forced to go on the defensive against the Team Kunimitsu Honda of Tadasuke Makino and the Cerumo Toyota of Toshiki Oyu.

Oyu was able to pull off a move on Makino for third on lap 18, but a slow stop by Cerumo as Oyu handed over to Hiroaki Ishiura cost the team the position, and also gave SARD the breathing space needed to bring Sekiguchi in and maintain second place.

In the second stint, Sekiguchi’s teammate Yuichi Nakayama fought a rear-guard action against his opposite number in the Kunimitsu Honda, Naoki Yamamoto, but ultimately hung on to the place by just 1.2 seconds at the finish.

Despite missing out on second, Yamamoto and Makino ensured the new Civic Type R-GT scored a podium finish on its debut, with Yamamoto also bouncing back from missing the final two races of the 2023 season due to injury.

Ishiura made it three Toyota crews in the top four in the No. 38 Cerumo entry, albeit almost nine seconds away from third.

Nissan’s top finisher was the No. 23 NISMO Z of Katsumasa Chiyo and Ronnie Quintarelli, with Quintarelli losing ground on the opening lap after being nudged into the gravel by Oshima’s Rookie Toyota at the first corner.

Mitsunori Takaboshi and Atsushi Miyake completed the top six in the sister No. 3 Nissan, albeit only after newcomer Miyake nudged the second of the TOM’S Toyotas, the No. 37 car of Giuliano Alesi, out on to the grass during a late fight for position.

Alesi survived the incident to finish seventh in the car he shares with Ukyo Sasahara, who enjoyed a spell in the lead as the final driver to make his mandatory pitstop.

ARTA’s No. 8 Honda recovered from its pit lane start to claim eighth, helped by the early safety car period, ahead of the sister No. 16 car in ninth and the Nakajima Honda, the only non-Bridgestone car to score points in GT500.

Inging Toyota Beats LEON Mercedes to GT300 Victory

In the GT300 class, the No. 2 Inging Toyota GR86 of Hibiki Taira and Yuui Tsutsumi took victory ahead of the pole-winning No. 65 LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Naoya Gamou and Takuro Shinohara.

Taira spent the opening stint running behind Shinohara before making his pitstop on lap 33, opting not to change any of the No. 2 machine’s Bridgestone tires, while LEON chose to send Gamou out on fresh rubber after Shinohara stopped on lap 50.

Gamou emerged from his stop in third behind the No. 52 Saitama Green Brave Toyota GR Supra, which likewise opted not to change tires, but was able to use his tire advantage to pass for second before closing in on Tsutsumi for the lead.

However, the gap was simply too big to bridge and Tsutumi made it home with just under five seconds in hand over Gamou.

Hiroki Yoshida tried to hang on for a podium place in the GR Supra he shares with Seita Nonaka, but he was passed in the battle for third by SUPER GT newcomer Niklas Kruetten, who had taken over the No. 7 Team Studie BMW M4 GT3 from Seiji Ara.

Completing the top five, a lap down, was another car not to take fresh tires during the pitstops, the No. 31 apr Lexus LC500h of Kazuto Kotaka and Jin Nakamura.

Subaru’s season got off to a dreadful start as the No. 61 BRZ shared by Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi struggled for pace in the opening stint, dropping down the order from its starting position of third to the lower reaches of the top 10.

Yamauchi was handed a drive-through penalty for sending the Team Mach Toyota 86 MC into a spin, before the Subaru’s race came to an end amid an overheating engine.

The Ferrari 296 GT3 picked up a single point for 10th on its SUPER GT debut courtesy of Team LeMans pair Roberto Merhi and Yoshiaki Katayama.

Results: GT500/GT300

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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