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5ZIGEN Delivers Nissan First Win Since 2018 at Suzuka

Kanamaru, ‘Hirobon’ triumph in Race 1 as Gounon scores first win in Climax Mercedes-AMG…

Photo: GT World Challenge Asia

Nissan scored its first Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS victory since 2018 as 5ZIGEN pair Yu Kanamaru and ‘Hirobon’ scored victory in the opening race of last weekend’s fourth round of the season at Suzuka.

Kanamaru and ‘Hirobon’ triumphed by just 0.206 seconds aboard the No. 500 5ZIGEN (pronounced go-zigen) Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 as Kanamaru fended off the No. 4 Origine Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R of Laurin Heinrich in the closing stages.

It marked the first victory in the championship for the venerable GT-R since Alexandre Imperatori and Yukinori Taniguchi triumphed for KCMG at Fuji in 2018.

In the second race, factory Mercedes-AMG ace Jules Gounon picked up his first win of the year in the No. 66 Climax Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo he shares with Zhou Bihuang.

Third in that race for Lu Wei, who shared the No. 4 Porsche with Heinrich at Suzuka for the first time since the season opener in Malaysia, combined with second in the opener on Saturday has put the Chinese racer back in the lead of the championship.

‘Hirobon’ took the start for 5ZIGEN in the first race, moving up from fourth to third in the early stages before two safety car interruptions, the second of which would allow the No. 500 Nissan to vault into the lead.

With the entire field pitting under the second safety car, caused by an off for the VSR Lamborghini of Yudai Uchida, 5ZIGEN gained the advantage in a crowded pitlane, allowing Kanamaru to exit with the lead ahead of the No. 87 Origine Porsche of Leo Ye Hongli.

Heinrich, taking over from Lu, ran third but was able to pass his fellow Porsche man Ye into Spoon Curve soon after another safety car intervention, but there was nothing the German driver could do about Kanamaru in the closing stages.

Not long after being passed by Heinrich, Ye picked up a drive-through penalty for making contact with the Phantom Global Racing-run FAW Audi Sport Asia Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II of Adderly Fong at Turn 2 that left Fong in the gravel.

That contact promoted the JMR Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG shared by Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Mikael Grenier, who was making his first outing of the season.

Heinrich was the star of the first part of Sunday’s race as he passed poleman Gounon on the opening lap, but a 10-second success penalty for the No. 87’s car second-place finish on Saturday allowed Gounon’s teammate Zhou to regain the lead at the pitstops.

The race was effectively cut short by a crash for the No. 13 Phantom Global Porsche of Sun Jing Zu, with brought out the safety car and locked in Zhou’s advantage, the Chinese driver winning in his first weekend for Climax after switching over from VSR.

A storming first stint from Alessio Picariello in the No. 1 Absolute Racing Porsche, in which the Belgian went from seventh to third, allowed his teammate Anthony Liu to resume second after the stops, giving the duo their third podium in five races.

Third on the road was the No. 296 Absolute Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 of Finn Gehrsitz and Andre Canard, but a post-race time penalty promoted Heinrich and Lu back to the final step on the podium, the No. 4 car having dropped to fourth at the stops.

That allowed Lu to keep hold of the championship lead by just a single point from Liu and Picariello with two weekends left to run.

Ye and his teammate Bo Yuan atoned for a disastrous first race with fourth on Sunday to keep themselves in the championship hunt, 13 points behind Lu.

Fanatec GT Asia’s penultimate round, and final race on Japanese soil, will be held at Okayama International Circuit on August 24-25.

RESULTS: Race 1/Race 2

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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