It was another busy sports car racing weekend around the world with races throughout Europe and Asia. In Asia the Super GT teams tackled the Suzuka 1000KM in Japan, while other Asian teams raced in the 12-hour Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race at Sepang. Over in Europe the 24 Hours of Zolder took place this weekend, while the ADAC GT Masters raced at the Nürburgring and the Italian GT Championship as well as GT4 European Series raced at Paul Ricard.
Super GT (GT500)
Round six of the 2014 AUTOBACS Super GT series was the 43rd running of the Suzuka 1000KM. Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter, driving the No. 36 Petronas TOM’s Lexus RC F started from pole position and quickly pulled away from Hiroki Tsukakoshi, before hitting traffic. Tsukakoshi closed the gap and took the lead on lap 10 and kept the lead until his pit stop on lap 34.
On the first lap out of the pits Nakajima managed to pass Toshihiro Kaneishi, but a problem for the No. 36 car during the second round of pit stops handed back the lead to the No. 17 Keihin NSX. The teams swapped positions during pit stops, until lap 87 when Tsukakoshi went off at 130R, damaging the car.
The No. 23 Motul Autech Nissan GT-R of Ronnie Quintarelli briefly moved into the lead, but on lap 104 he pitted and Nakajima moved back into the lead. After 173 laps they were able to celebrate their first victory of the season. Quintarelli and teammate Tsugio Matsuda finished in second place, 50 seconds behind the winners.
Race – 1. Petronas TOM’S (Nakajima/Rossiter) Lexus, 2. Motul Autech (Matsuda/Quintarelli) Nissan, 3. Weider Modulo (Yamamoto/Makowiecki) Honda.
Super GT (GT300)
In the GT300 category at the Suzuka 1000KM it was the No. 60 TWS LM corsa BMW Z4 GT3 of Akira Iida, Hiroki Yoshimoto and Shinya Sato that took their first-ever GT race victory.
Yoshimoto started the race in sixth place, behind the Honda CR-Zs, the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota Prius, but by lap 28 the No. 60 BMW was already in second position. Iida closed the gap to Shinichi Takagi in the ARTA CR-Z GT and on lap 61 he overtook him and moved into the lead. The battle between the two cars continued, with the CR-Z moving back into the lead after a slower BMW pit stop, but on lap 133 Yoshimoto put the BMW back in the lead.
When the ARTA CR-Z GT was forced to retire with engine problems the race was run and it allowed the TWS LM corsa BMW to cruise to their first victory in the Super GT series, finishing one lap clear of the OGT Panasonic Toyota Prius.
Race – 1. TWS LM corsa (Iida/Yoshimoto/Sato) BMW, 2. OGT Panasonic (Nitta/Saga/Nakayama) Toyota, 3. Studie (Müller/Ara/Farfus) BMW.
ADAC GT Masters
The Corvettes ruled at the Nürburgring this weekend, with a maiden victory for RWT Racing Team on Saturday and another win for Callaway Competition on Sunday.
In the first race RWT Racing Team driver David Jahn took the lead in turn one as pole-sitter Alon Day locked up and ran wide. An incident triggered a two-lap safety car period, but from the restart until his pit stop Jahn kept the lead. Jahn’s teammate Sven Barth increased his lead during his stint and claimed the team’s first win. The finish was controversial as Jahn crossed the line 0.084s before the one-hour mark, despite being told he was on the last lap. Jahn slowed down after the finish and Ludwig passed him halfway the next lap, but race control decided the result would stand with Jahn and Wirth taking first place.
Sunday’s race started just after a shower hit the Nürburgring. Nicki Thiim started from pole, led the field through turn one, but then retired with an alternator failure. René Rast took the lead and kept the lead until the driver change. His teammate Kelvin van der Linde returned on slicks, but behind the Callaway Corvette of Andreas Wirth. The two battled for the lead until the finish, but it was Wirth who claimed victory in race two.
Race 1 – 1. RWT Racing Team (Barth/Jahn) Corvette, 2. BKK Mobil Oil Racing Team Zakspeed (Day/Ludwig) Mercedes, 3. Tonino Team Herberth (Renauer/Siedler) Porsche.
Race 2 – 1. Callaway Competition (Keilwitz/Wirth) Corvette, 2. Prosperia C. Abt Racing (Rast/Van der Linde) Audi, 3. HTP Motorsport (Götz/Van der Zande).
Italian GT Championship
The Italian GT Championship went across the border into France for the fourth round of the 2014 season. At Paul Ricard Lamborghini and Ferrari each won a race.
On Saturday it was pole man Raffaele Giammaria who kept the lead until the driver change. After the pit stops the safety car was deployed, with MP1 Corse’s Nicola Benucci taking the lead. After the restart a charging Mirko Bortolotti in the Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Gallardo quickly passed three cars, before passing Benucci on lap 20. He went on to win race one, ahead of the Scuderia Baldini and BMS Scuderia Italia Ferraris.
In race two Alessandro Pier Guidi battled with Audi driver Marco Mapelli at the start, but eventually the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari pulled away at the front, leaving Mapelli and Bortolotti behind. Luigi Lucchini took over from Pier Guidi kept the lead until he spun on the last lap. Alessandro Balzan made no mistake and passed Lucchini to take the lead and his first win of the season. The Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS ultra finished in second place, ahead of Saturday’s race winning Imperiale Racing’s Lamborghini.
Race 1 – 1. Imperiale Racing (Barri/Bortolotti) Lamborghini, 2. Scuderia Baldini 27 (Giammaria/Casè) Ferrari, 3. BMS Scuderia Italia (Pier Guidi/Lucchini) Ferrari.
Race 2 – 1. MP1 Corse (Balzan/Benucci) Ferrari, 2. Audi Sport Italia (Schoeffler/Mapelli) Audi, 3. Imperiale Racing (Barri/Bortolotti) Lamborghini
GT4 European Series
Round four of the GT4 European Series was held at Circuit Paul Ricard and resulted in the second Ginetta victory of the season on Saturday and the first Porsche victory on Sunday.
In race one the V8 Racing Camaro GT4 of Duncan Huisman took the lead at the start and the Dutchman handed over his car to teammate Luc Braams in first position. Braams was unable to retain the lead, losing first place to the ALFAB Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Erik Behrens and Daniel Roos. Behrens spun his Aston on lap 19, which handed the lead to V8 Racing driver Marcel Nooren. On the last lap the Ginetta of Jesse Anttila passed the Camaro and the Finnish driver went on to win the race.
Race two was a different story with the PROsport Performance Porsche of Jörg Viebahn and Bertus Sanders controlling the entire race. Viebahn took the lead on lap two and stretched it out to five seconds, before handing the Porsche over to Sanders. Sanders increased the lead during his stint, until brake problems slowed him down in the final minutes. The lead over the Ginetta of Fran Viel Bugliotti was enough to stay ahead and secure the first Porsche victory in the series.
Race 1 – 1. Nova Race (Tineo/Anttila) Ginetta, 2. V8 Racing (Verheul/Nooren) Camaro, 3. Rangoni Corse (Bonacini/Lasagni) Ginetta.
Race 2 – 1. PROsport Performance (Viebahn/Sanders) Porsche, 2. Nova Race (Bugliotti) Ginetta, 3. Rangoni Corse (Bonacini/Lasagni) Ginetta.
24 Hours of Zolder
Belgium Racing took its second consecutive 24 Hours of Zolder race win this weekend. The team’s Porsche 997 Cup, driven by Dylan Derdaele, Kenneth Heyer, Peter Hoevenaars and Frank Thiers, took the lead in the sixth hour of the race. The team briefly lost the lead when they made a pit stop, but other than that Belgium Racing controlled the race. The No. 99 Porsche eventually finished 19 laps ahead of the Wolf Racing Cars Wolf GB08.
Race – 1. Belgium Racing (Derdaele/Heyer/Hoevenaars/Thiers) Porsche, 2. Wolf Racing Cars (Longin/Kumpen/Belien/Bellarosa) Wolf, 3. Belgium Racing (DeLaet/Hoogaars/Kroll/Thiers) Porsche.
Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race
The 2014 Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race was won by GT Asia Series team and defending MMER champions Clearwater Racing. The Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, driven by Gianmaria Bruni, Mok Weng Sun and Alif Hamdan started from pole and dominated the event from start to finish.
Bruni pulled away at the start of the race and, despite a number of safety cars, the No. 1 Ferrari was never under threat by any of the other 27 participants. After 325 laps of racing on the 5.543km long Sepang International Circuit it finished one lap clear of the second placed Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Richard Wee, Keita Sawa and Craig Baird.