Fuji : ZENT CERUMO LC500 team comes from behind for the win

In a race struck by a thunderstorm the Fuji-expert ZENT CERUMO LC500 team comes from behind for the win! GAINER TANAX GT-R takes the GT300 class win

The FUJI GT 500km RACE, Round 2 of the 2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563 m x 110 laps) in Shizuoka Pref. on May 4th. After a strong thunderstorm forced a halt to the race in the early going, the weather improved to allow a great race to unfold. In the GT500 class race, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa/Hiroaki Ishiura) emerged victorious while the GT300 class win went to the No.11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda).

Although yesterday’s qualifying and race day’s morning were blessed with fair weather, rain began to fall just before the start of the race, and by start time the track was completely wet. As a result, the race was started behind the Safety Car for two laps before the actual racing began.

From that point, the pole-starting No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) in the lead was chased hard by the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Nick Cassidy) in what developed into a fierce battle for the lead that saw the machines slipping when they hit wetter spots on the track. Before long, they were joined by the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa) that had worked up steadily through the rain from a 7th-position grid start. Car No. 38 eventually passed the two cars in front of it to take the lead on the 13th lap. Just before that, the ran had begun to fall heavily as thunder and lightning cracked, forcing the officials to bring out the red flag and temporarily suspend the race.

Fortunately, the rain let up after about half an hour so the race could be restarted. As the track gradually dried, the contest for the lead turned into a head-to-head battle between cars No. 38 and No. 23. After the first pit stop, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) was in the lead, but the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Hiroaki Ishiura) caught and passed it to take the lead. After the second pit stop, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Quintarelli) took the lead again, but in the last ten laps of the race the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Tachikawa) reclaimed the lead. In the end, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 would hold on to take the win. The No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R finished in 2ndplace. The No. 1 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Jenson Button) managed to work up from 12th position on the starting grid to take the third spot on the podium.

In the GT300 class race, the 4th-position grid starting No. 11 GAINER TANAX GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) pushed forward steadily in the wet early going after the

start to pass the pole-starting No. 56 REALIZE NISSAN AUTOMOBILE TECHNICAL COLLEGE GT-R (Kazuki Hiramune) and take the lead. After that, the GAINER TANAX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka) remained strong after the race was stopped for heavy rain and subsequently restarted and gradually increased its lead over the field. In the latter stages of the race, the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi) was closed in on the leading GAINER TANAX GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) from behind, but it was fortunately able to hold on for the win. Second place went to the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Takagi/Nirei Fukuzumi), while 3rd went to the No. 88 MANEPA Lamborghini GT3 (Takashi Kogure/Yuya Motojima). (Spectators: 56,000; May 3 (Qualifying): 35,800; Two-day total: 91,800)

■ Winner Comments
No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 [GT500]
Yuji Tachikawa: “This season we have had a change in team management that has put more pressure on me than before, and since we had a disappointing result in the opening round, I really wanted to win today. From beginning to end, it was a tense race the whole way and a fantastic one to be part of. What’s more, we were able to end it with the best possible result. I just want to thank everyone for their support.”

Hiroaki Ishiura: “Two years ago, we won this race at Fuji in May, and today we were able to win again after missing out last year. Tachikawa-san and I were able to celebrate that victory two years ago, but as he just said, we are in a different position now and there is more pressure on us. That is why we were so determined to win here today at our home course of Fuji. I can’t express how happy I am that we have won.”

Katsuyuki Hiranaka: “I’m sure it was really tough for Yasuda-san in the closing stages of the race. I have had experience in a situation like he was in today, so I know how tough it is both physically and mentally to be chased like that. That’s why I am so grateful to him right now. The two of us won in Thailand last year as a team, and this is our first win since then, and I know I am never going to forget today’s victory. It was been a very rewarding and happy experience for me.”

Hironobu Yasuda: “I though today’s race was going to be a duel between us and car No. 56 (REALIZE NISSAN AUTOMOBILE TECHNICAL COLLEGE GT-R), but things turned out differently. At the end it was a really tough battle, but at the very end I was able to take advantage of being passed by a GT500 car and it was just enough to get me home for the win.”