Super GT 2010 - Round 5 Sugo

BY Burnpavement

A dramatic first win for KEIHIN HSV-010 while misfortune robs MOTUL AUTECH GT-R of certain victory.

Photos: Super GT

On July 25, the 'SUGO GT 300KM RACE' Round 5 of the 2010 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi Prefecture). The GT500 class victory was won by the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi/Koudai Tsukakoshi) while the GT300 class victory went to the No. 2 Apple·K-ONE·Shiden (Hiroki Katoh/Hiroshi Hamaguchi).

A series of collisions and spin outs disrupted the early stages of the race. Out in front however, the pole-starting No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) was pulling away at a pace unmatched by any other machine on the track. By lap six, Treluyer had already recorded the fastest lap of the race at 1 minute 17.691 seconds and enjoyed a 10 second safety margin over the pack when he brought the car back to the pit on lap 50 and turned over the wheel to Satoshi Motoyama. Motoyama also managed to keep a safe margin of lead as his stint wore on. Car No. 23 had scored the fastest laps in every session run in the race weekend's practice and qualifying, and it looked to be on its way to a runaway victory in the race too. But then disaster struck and car No. 23 suddenly slowed on the final turn of lap number 74, coming to a halt on the inside of the track. The trouble was an electrical system failure and the car was able to return to the race after turning on the switch again, but the time loss had dropped it back to sixth place.

This opened up the lead to the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Loic Duval/Takashi Kogure). But closing in on its tail was the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi/Koudai Tsukakoshi), making the race a shoot-out between two Honda HSV-010 GTs. As the two machines maneuvered between the GT300 class back markers, Tsukakoshi pulled up even with Kogure several times. Each time however, the more experienced Kogure was able to hold off Tsukakoshi's charge. On the last lap a slight gap had opened up between the two Hondas and it looked as if Kogure was going to be able to hold his lead to the finish. But, Tsukakoshi in car No. 17 hadn't given up, as he chased Kogure in car No. 18 into the last turn, waiting for the chance to strike. At that moment, however, a back marker appeared in front of Kogure limiting his choice of lines. Tsukakoshi didn't miss this chance and pulled up alongside Kogure on the out side and the two accelerated at full speed out of the turn. As they crossed the finish line, the nose cone of Tsukakoshi's car No. 17 was just ahead of Kogure's. The clock timed the difference between the two machines as 0.025 seconds, thrilling the 27,000 spectators with this dramatic turn of events.

For the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010, its first podium finish of the season was also its first victory. For the team and for Koudai Tsukakoshi, this was their first SUPER GT victory. Toshihiro Kaneishi has one victory in the All Star Race of 2004, but this is his first win in a series round. After having victory stolen out of their hands, the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure/Loic Duval) team settled for a disappointing second. Finishing third was the No. 6 ENEOS SC430 (Daisuke Ito/Bjorn Wirdheim). Staring from eighth position on the grid, the first-stint driver, Wirdheim had managed to avoid the early confusion and move up through the pack. Over the second half of the race, his teammate Ito had been able to hold pace and claim this podium finish. With this finish, Ito and Wirdheim remains top in the rankings.

For the GT300 class, the race saw the pole-starting No. 2 Apple·K-ONE·Shiden (Hiroki Katoh) run away from the pack in the early stages. Behind it, the No. 31 EVANGELION RT TEST TYPE-01 apr COROLLA (Koki Saga) was giving chase but couldn't narrow the gap. Meanwhile, another gap existed between these two and the rest of the field. In car No. 31, Saga continued to lose ground to the more experienced Katoh (No. 2) in areas like how to move out of the way of a passing GT500 and how to handle the changing track conditions as rain began to fall in the middle stages of the race.

Katoh (No. 2) held off returning to the pit for the team's routine pit stop until lap 51 of the 81-lap race in order to reduce the workload on his teammate Hiroshi Hamaguchi. The pit work was completed with no time loss and Hamaguchi returned to the race with the lead intact. After that, Hamaguchi drove with a calm steadiness and succeeded in maintaining the nearly 30 second lead he had received. He ran on alone to a victorious finish. For the No. 2 Apple·K-ONE·Shiden (Hiroki Katoh/Hiroshi Hamaguchi) team, this is their first win of the season while for Katoh and the Shiden team, it is their fourth in the GT300 class.

In the battle for second place, the No. 3 HASEMI SPORT TOMICA Z passed car No. 31 (Koki Saga/Kosuke Matsuura) on lap number 53 and went on to finish second. Car No. 3 had suffered an unsuccessful qualifying with Kazuki Hoshino driving and had been forced to start from 12th position on the class grid. But, Hoshino had come back in the race to move up steadily through the field and was third in position when he turned the driver's seat over to teammate Masataka Yanagida for the second half of the race. During his stint, Yanagida made skillful use of back markers to pass No. 31 (Matsuura). For third position, No. 31 EVANGELION RT TEST TYPE-01 apr COROLLA (Koki Saga/Kosuke Matsuura), this is the team's first podium finish of the season.