April 19, 2022
4 min Reading
The opening round of the 2022 SUPER GT season was held under beautiful, sunny spring skies at Okayama International Circuit this weekend, making it perfect racing conditions for the debut of the Nissan Z GT500.
The Nissan Zs got off to a solid start, with three of them moving up from their grid positions and the #24 maintaining a starting position of 5th place. Later in lap 8, the #12 Z lifted its pace to move up to 5th and join the 4-car battle for 2nd before the GT500 cars began pitting on lap 29.
It was at this point that Kazuki Hiramine in the #12 Z returned to the course in 4th position and increased his pace on fresh tires to pass a rival on lap 36 to move up to 3rd. After finishing their pit stops the #3 Z was in 7th, the #24 Z in 8th, and the #23 Z in 9th, putting all four Nissans into the top ten.
On the 52nd lap, after all GT500 class cars had finished their pit stops, the #12 Z was running in 2nd, the #3 Z in 6th, the #24 Z in 7th, and the #23 Z in 8th. The vying for position only intensified further as the race went on. On lap 61, the #24 Z was passed by two cars and dropped to 9th, with the #3 Z moving up to 5th and the #23 Z to 6th. Unfortunately, the #24 Z had contact with a GT300 machine on lap 66, forcing it to fall back significantly.
On lap 68, a full course yellow (FCY) was called to deal with a crashed car, and when it was lifted, the #23 Z passed the #3 Z to take 5th position. There was barely a hair's breadth between the five cars from the #12 Z running in 2nd to the #3 Z running in 6th, as the battle intensified. On lap 72, the #23 Z moved up to 4th place, but the #12 Z fell back down to 7th by lap 77. The #23 Z, whose pace had not waned, passed the car in front on lap 73 to move into 3rd place, and the #3 Z moved up to 5th place on lap 75.
The #23 Z was closing in on 2nd in the final stages, but ultimately finished in 3rd place grabbing a podium finish for the Nissan Z in its debut race. The #3 Z finished 5th and the #12 Z 7th, making it three Nissan Z GT500s finishing in the top 10.
#23 driver Tsugio Matsuda stated, “It was a race of perseverance, and it was never easy, but the car and tires were good, and I was able to steadily improve my position without missing any of my rivals' mistakes.” Co-driver, Ronnie Quintarelli continued, “I felt the potential of the car right from the official practice session. [In the race] I could feel the power on the straights and the car felt very competitive. I’ll be aiming to show a strong Nissan/NISMO team performance in the next round."
Six NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 cars competed in the GT300 class, with the #56 Realize Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R (Kiyoto Fujinami/Joao Paulo de Oliveira) taking the win after qualifying in 5th position. This is their second consecutive opening round win in two years.
The next round of the SUPER GT will be held at Fuji Speedway on May 4th, 2022.