Lexus LC 500 takes three wins in a row in 2017 SU­PER GT500

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Hav­ing dom­i­nated the first two rounds of the 2017 AUTOBACS SU­PER GT500 se­ries in Okayama and Fuji Speed­way, the new Lexus LC 500 dis­played its prow­ess once again at the Au­topo­lis rac­ing cir­cuit to make it three wins in a row. This time, it was the turn of the #36 au TOM’S LC500 driven by Kazuki Naka­jima and JamesRos­siterto keep the Lexus flag fly­ing as they raced to vic­tory in the third round of the cham­pi­onship.

In a race held un­der clear bright skies and fought over a chal­leng­ing 300-kmdis­tance, the au TOM’S LC500 bat­tled its way from sev­enth on the grid to the top step of the podium to con­tinue Lexus’ scin­til­lat­ing start to the sea­son and con­sol­i­date the team’s po­si­tion on top of the man­u­fac­turer’s stand­ings.

“This has been an­other ex­cel­lent per­for­mance from the team, and I con­grat­u­late au TOM’S LC500 for main­tain­ing Lexus’ dom­i­nance in the 2017 sea­son,” said Takayuki Yoshit­sugu, Chief Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Mid­dle East and North Africa Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Of­fice, Toy­ota Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion. “Par­tic­i­pat­ing in mo­tor­sports events al­lows us to gather a va­ri­ety of data which in turn help us while de­vel­op­ing pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cles. The level of sup­port we re­ceived from our fans has been one of the high­lights of our 2017 ac­tiv­i­ties so far, and I ex­press my grat­i­tude to them for their con­stant en­cour­age­ment of our mo­tor­sports ini­tia­tives.”

The SU­PER GT qual­i­fy­ing em­ploys a unique two-stage knock­out for­mat, mean­ing both drivers of each team must be quick enough to get into higher po­si­tion. Ev­ery­one makes a des­per­ate at­tempt to­clock the fastest lap in qual­i­fy­ing within the given time limit to get a bet­ter po­si­tion at the ac­tual race, mak­ing it a breath­tak­ing bat­tle well worth watch­ing.

Be­sides, since races tend to get bor­ing if a sin­gle car dom­i­nates the sea­son, weight hand­i­caps (suc­cess bal­last), which are cal­cu­lated ac­cord­ing to ac­cu­mu­lated points the drivers have ac­quired in all pre­vi­ous races, are as­signed to the cars in the next race. Heav­ier cars have poorer ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing, mean­ing the cham­pi­onship bat­tle is ex­pected to go down to the wire. That looked to be a real dis­ad­van­tage ini­tially, since Lexus teams dom­i­nated the pre­vi­ous two rounds and this meant the LC 500 cars had to carry ex­tra weight into the race. De­spite the weight hand­i­cap, five of the six Lexus LC 500s made it through to the second stage of qual­i­fy­ing.

As the race started,the pole-start­ing com­peti­tor car se­cured the fastest lap of the en­tire race on lap two and gen­er­ated a run­away lead of over six sec­onds by lap four. How­ever, a ma­jor in­ci­dent on lap five took two cars out of con­tention and im­me­di­ately deleted any ad­van­tages dur­ing the safety car’s de­ploy­ment.

Fol­low­ing the restart on lap 14, the fron­trun­ners found them­selves caught up with back mark­ers in the GT300 class(SU­PER GT is a mixed-class rac­ing com­pe­ti­tion com­bin­ing GT500 and GT300 classes, with the two classes of dif­fer­ent lev­els of per­for­mance rac­ing to­gether to make the event all the more ex­cit­ing for fans). This mo­men­tary hold-up al­lowed HeikkiKo­valainento join the chase in the #1 LC 500, even­tu­ally push­ing into second place by the half­way point.

By lap 30 the teams be­gan to make rou­tine driver changes. In a cal­cu­lated move, the #1 LC 500 en­tered the pits at the same time as the lead car, but man­aged to emerge in front as the DENSO KOBELCO SARD team pulled off a light­ning fast pit stop. Dur­ing this pe­riod, the #36 LC 500 of James Ros­siter pushed in­cred­i­bly hard and took the lead un­til lap 35, cre­at­ing valu­able head­way that al­lowed fel­low driver Kazuki Naka­jima to leapfrog into the over­all lead af­ter their own su­per-speedy pit stop, ahead of the #1 LC 500.

With the #36 and #1 LC 500s now in first and second po­si­tion and gain­ing dis­tance on the rest of the pack, a six-car scrap en­sued for third place. How­ever, the two lead cars had their own bat­tle, an in­tense ri­valry that ended in an un­avoid­able col­li­sion on lap 51. The #1 car spun off and was un­for­tu­nately hit from be­hind by a GT300 car as it tried to re­turn to the track, forc­ing both cars out of con­tention.

Now un­chal­lenged, Naka­jima led his #36 car to the che­quered flag with an out­stand­ing lead of 26 sec­onds - team au TOM’S first win of the 2017 sea­son and the third con­sec­u­tive vic­tory for the Lexus LC 500.

“Af­ter the qual­i­fy­ing, I was start­ing to lose my con­fi­dence, so I de­cided to race calmly,”Kazuki Naka­jima said. “But, James did a mag­nif­i­cent job at the wheel and got us to where we could take the lead. That was more than I ever ex­pected. I had a bad time get­ting through the traf­fic (of back mark­ers) and it al­lowed the No. 1 car to catch up with me. There was noth­ing I could do about the en­su­ing col­li­sion and that was un­for­tu­nate. There was some dam­age to my ma­chine, but for­tu­nately I was some­how able to get to the fin­ish first.” James Ros­siter­said,”It was truly a day full of ac­tion. At first, I was run­ning be­hind the two lead cars and that was the tough­est part. But af­ter the safety car came out, I thought that the real race would be from that point on, so I pushed hard. I kept run­ning in full-at­tack mode, and I re­ally en­joyed it. We got the win, so I am sat­is­fied.”

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