Toyota wins SUPER GT300 class at Autopolis
Toyota claimed a memorable first victory of the season in the GT300 class as the 2016 champion No. 25 VivaC 86 MC driven by Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita ran from pole position to take the win in the third round of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series. Held at the Autopolis circuit under sunny skies and over a challenging 300-km distance, the race proved to be one of the most exciting and closely-fought contests of the season so far.
“I would like to extend my congratulations to the team for giving Toyota a thrilling first win of the season,” said Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “For Toyota, racing events such as the SUPER GT series are an opportunity to not only test the mettle of our performance machines, but also to develop human resources and to bring the joy of cars to an even wider audience. The atmosphere at the Autopolis was absolutely terrific, and I express my sincere appreciation to our fans for their support and constant encouragement for our racing initiatives.”
At the start of the race, the pole-sitting No. 25 VivaC 86 MC with Kenta Yamashita at the wheel pulled away into the lead, closely followed by the car that started second on the grid. Just as it looked as if the battle for the lead between these two cars will heat up, a car from a rival manufacturer spun out at the 17th turn and came to a stop in the middle of the of the track, causing a collision with the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT that forced the latter to drop out of the race. The incident brought out the safety car and stopped the race temporarily.
After the re-start, the gap between the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC and the second-placed car had been reduced to just one second, and the battle between the two machines continued until the No. 25 made its pit stop on lap 30. After both cars had completed their pit stops, the competitor car found itself in the lead momentarily, but the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC, now with Takamitsu Matsui behind the wheel, kept pushing hard to quickly reclaim the advantage.
As the race entered the final stages, Matsui made a strong spurt and opened up a gap of nearly four seconds with 10 laps remaining. Even though the second-placed car managed to close the gap to one second again, Matsui succeeded in holding out by the narrowest of margins to give Toyota the victory. At the finish line, there was only a 0.091 second gap between the noses of the two machines.
“In the first half, I was hoping that Kenta Yamashita would break out and give us the race, but things didn’t go that easily,” said Takamitsu Matsui. “Since it seemed that it had been tough going in the first half, we changed the tire choice for the second half, and after they got warmed up, things went well. Because Autopolis is said to be a track where the JAF-GT300 cars have an advantage, I’m relieved that we were able to win here.”
Kenta Yamashita said, “When I was running laps in the 1 min. 45 sec. range, I thought it was a good pace, but the second-placed car was able to stay with me and it was hard for me to build up any kind of solid lead. But in the second half of the race, Takamitsu Matsui did a fantastic job, and although there was some trouble along the way, the drivers and the team really worked hard and we just managed to get the win, so I am glad.”