The last summer round of the 2022 SUPER GT held at Suzuka Circuit this weekend was a race that kept the fans guessing right up until the checkered flag. The beginning of the race saw Ronnie Quintarelli in the #23 MOTUL AUTECH Z, which on the previous day secured the first pole position for the Nissan Z GT500, maintain the lead while Daiki Sasaki in the #24 Realize corporation ADVAN Z held onto a 6th placed starting position. Katsumasa Chiyo in the #3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL Z, started from 9th and climbed up to 7th by the second lap and Bertrand Baguette in the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL Z began from 15th on the grid before moving up to 14th in the opening stages.
On lap 8, the #3 Z passed the #24 Z to grab 6th while the #12 Z moved up to 13th on lap 7 before overtaking one more rival on lap 16 to move up to 12th. Unfortunately, the #24 Z suffered tire trouble in lap 17, dropping it down to 15th. The #23 Z, which was still leading the race, came in for refuelling and a tire change on lap 18. It returned to the course in 11th position without changing drivers. On lap 20, the #3 Z also pitted and returned to the course in 12th position. The #12 Z, which delayed its first pit stop, went in on lap 34 while running in 2nd position and handed the wheel over to Kazuki Hiramine, who began a fight back up from 13th position. By the time all the GT500 class cars had made their first pit stops, the #23 Z was running in 2nd, the #3 Z in 7th, the #12 Z in 13th, and the #24 Z in 15th.
As the race entered its second half the #23 Z, now in 4th made its second pit stop on lap 42 and saw Tsugio Matsuda jump into the driver’s seat. The #3 Z running in 5th entered the pits on lap 46 where the reins were handed over to Mitsunori Takaboshi. On lap 49, a crash on 130R brought out the safety car and, just before the pit lane was closed, the #12 Z running in 6th position slipped into the pits and was able to return in 8th position and successfully cut its pit stop time loss. When the race resumed on lap 55, #23 was running in 7th, #12 Z in 8th, #3 Z in 10th, and #24 Z in 15th. As several cars were making their second pit stops, the Nissan Z GT500s increased their pace and improved their positions. By lap 60, when all GT500 machines had finished their second pit stop, the #23 Z was running in 2nd, the #12 Z in 3rd, and the #3 Z in 6th.
From here an intense battle between the #23 Z and the #12 Z unfolded and climaxed on lap 65 when the two got so close that the #12 Z was forced off course as they overtook a GT300 car. Unfortunately, the #23 Z was given a drive-through penalty, dropping it from podium contention. As for the #12 Z, now in second place, it was able to close in on the race leader, which began to lose pace in the final stages of the race, and on the 75th lap, the #12 made a pass on the inside going into the hairpin to grab the lead. From there it widened the gap and took the checkered flag to achieve a phenomenal comeback victory from a tail-end start that would also be the Nissan/NISMO camp’s 5th consecutive win at Suzuka.
Following the race, Hiramine stated, “I am surprised and ecstatic right now. I really did not expect to be able to move up from 15th on the grid to finish at the top of the podium. I poured everything I had into the race keeping [team principal] Hoshino’s words in my head, “Don’t you stop fighting until you reach the checkered flag.” Bertrand Baguette continued, “For me, this is my first win with this team, so I feel great. There are three races left so I hope we can maintain this lead”
As for the #3 Z, it closed the gap with the top runners and, when the #23 Z was penalized, it climbed up to 5th place before passing another car on lap 73 and moving into 4th place. The #23 Z, which had dropped to 6th due to a penalty, finished 5th. The #24 Z finished in the points in 10th place.
Five NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 cars competed in the GT300 class, where the #10 TANAX GAINER GT-R (Ryuichiro Tomita / Riki Okusa / Yusuke Shiotsu), started from pole position and finished 2nd, its second podium this season despite carrying 45kg of success weight. In the series rankings, the #56 REALIZE NISSAN MECHANIC CHALLENGE GT-R (Kiyoto Fujinami / Joao Paulo de Oliveira) is maintaining the lead, followed by the #10 GT-R ranked 2nd.