November 18, 2016 @ 12:11 PM

Heikki Kovalainen wins his first Super GT title in Motegi

The duo of Tsuchiya and Matsui in the No.25 VivaC 86 bags both the GT300 race win and Driver Championship

Featuring the best door-to-door action in touring car racing, the 2016 AUTOBACS Super GT season had finally come to an end at the infamous Twin Ring Motegi which also hosted the cancelled Autopolis Round 3 on Saturday. And after 53 laps of intense racing, the No.39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F of Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate crossed the finishing line to grab the victory for the GT500 class and bagging the Driver Championship title as well.

 

Starting their day early with the qualifying session, the No.39 RC F was in a roll as Hirate secured pole position for the race, following teammate’s Kovalainen’s pole the day before. Hirate also got a good start from pole position to set the rhythm of the race, but the two pursuing RC Fs of No.6 WAKO’S 4CR and No.37 KeePer TOM’S were not going to make this an easy race for him.

After taking over as the season leader from the No.1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R following Saturday’s Round 3 race, Hirate dived into the pits for the routine pit stop and passed the wheel over to Kovalainen. The faultless pit stop from the skilled LEXUS TEAM SARD pit crew enabled Kovalainen to maintain the race lead.

 

Although he was challenged by the No.6 RC F who was closing in in the later stages of the race, Kovalainen’s F1 experience proved to be valuable as he took the win with just 0.472 seconds to spare. Taking the chequered flag was definitely a turning point for the team as they did not only secure the GT500 class win, but taking both the Drivers’ and Team championship as well.

“In the final stages of the race I was struggling a bit as the tire wore down, but I worked to keep them from deteriorating seriously in hopes of being able to pull away again at the very end. In the end, everything went according to our race strategy. I am very happy to have gotten this first win and the championship title at the same time,” said Kovalainen, who once raced for McLaren in Formula 1.

 

“We were finally able to win (with this team). Of course, I am happy to have won the championship as well, but more than anything, I wanted to end the season with a win, and I am very happy that goal was realized,” said Hirate.

In the GT300 category, the earlier part of the race was led by the No.31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT after securing a pole in qualifying. Giving the No.25 VivaC 86 MC a run for its money as the ranking leader, they opted for an early pit stop with the strategy of running the second half without a tire change. The strategy turned out to be the perfect call for the team as Takamitsu Matsui was able to get to the tail of the No.39 Prius.

 

After finally passing the Prius, Matsui crossed the chequered flag to bring home the GT300 class Drivers championship with Takeshi Tsuchiya, as well as securing the Team championship.

“It feels really great to have won the race and taken the championship. Having this chance to race together with Takeshi [Tsuchiya]-san, I have been able to absorb a lot. I am really happy to have been able to win the championship with this team,” said Matsui.

 

“It makes me very happy that we were able to win and take the championship. We chose the same tires as yesterday, and since they weren’t effective yesterday, we gambled [with some new settings]. What’s more, it was great to see how cool Takamitsu [Matsui] was [as he caught up with the leader],” said Tsuchiya.

 

Hussein Zain

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