Nissan GT500 stars Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli have taken the lead in the Super GT championship after scoring their second consecutive runner-up finish at Fuji International Speedway.
After finishing second in the rain-shortened opening round at Okayama, the Japanese/Italian driver combo aboard the No. 23 Motul Autech Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 started from pole in Fuji after Quintarelli set a new qualifying lap record on Friday.
After Saturday’s race began behind the safety car, Quintarelli took the lead when the race went green on lap three. The Nissan driver lost the top spot on lap 13 at the first corner before the event was red flagged three laps later due to worsening weather conditions.
The race resumed after a 30-minute delay with Quintarelli dropping back to fifth at one stage before charging back through the pack to regain the lead by lap 31.
Tsugio Matsuda took over and switched to slicks on lap 41 and continued to run in the top two throughout his stint. Quintarelli took over for the final stint with 30 laps to go and held the lead until 10 laps to go.
After a hard fought 110 laps, the No. 23 Nissan crossed the line in second to grab the championship lead. Matsuda and Quintarelli now have a three-point gap in the title chase with six rounds remaining.
“After the rain stopped and the race resumed, the early stages were difficult, but I was able to lift our pace and return to the top,” Quintarelli said.
“Our pit timing was good too and I think that I was able to hand the car over to Matsuda in a good position. In the last stint, I thought that I could maintain the lead if I pushed hard on the out lap, and I was doing fine as it was, but I struggled with grip in the final stages.
“The result was a little disappointing, but I will do my best to maintain our position at the top of rankings from here on.”
The No. 3 GT-R of Nissan newcomers Kohei Hirate and Frederic Makowiecki finished sixth to score points for the second race in a row.
12th place finisher Daiki Sasaki and James Rossiter’s race was impacted by a contact-induced spin while Jann Mardenborough and Mitsunori Takaboshi suffered a technical issue and lost seven laps in the pits en route to finishing 14th.
Nissan had impressive speed in the GT300 class with Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Kazuki Hiramine and Sacha Fenestraz starting from pole while Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda took their GT-R to victory lane – Yasuda recording a stunning final lap to hold on for the win at the checkered flag.
The next round of the Super GT championship will be held at Suzuka on May 26.