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1-2-3 In Super Gt - Shake Down

Hondas Dominate At Sportsland Sugo Circuit

Nov 1, 2007
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The Honda teams left Malaysia and headed back home to Japan for round five of the Super GT series. The cold and damp mountains surrounding Sportsland Sugo were a welcome relief for the men and machines that suffered through relentless heat at the Sepang Circuit just a few weeks earlier. Takashi Kogure put the Takata Dome GT500 NSX on the pole for a record breaking fourth consecutive event. The ARTA and Epson NSX teams backed him up in the second and third grid positions. Regardless of the gloomy weather, the stage was set for the Honda teams to shine.

The rain came down while the cars sat out on the grid. This sent the teams scrambling to switch to wet tires before the start of the race. It was so bad that the safety car stayed out for the start of the race. This guaranteed the winless Takata Dome team the lead for at least a few laps until the safety car pulled off. On lap seven they were finally let loose under green flag conditions.

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Kogure blasted off, leaving the field lost in a rooster tail of rainwater. But, the tables were turned when he caught the back of the GT300 field on lap 10. A windshield wiper failure left him with near zero visibility. This made Kogure easy pickings for Ralph Firman in the ARTA NSX who caught and passed him on lap 11. Fortunately the rain stopped shortly thereafter and he was able to settle into a rhythm in second place.

With the rain gone, the next challenges would come during the pit stops. On lap 40, Firman brought the ARTA NSX into the pits. This handed the lead back to Kogure who now had his mirrors filled with the hard charging TOM'S SC430. Daisuke Ito jumped into the ARTA NSX but was blocked by the Motul Autech Z that had spun and then stalled in the pit exit lane. Ito was forced to drive off the pavement to get back on the track making his cold slick tires even worse on the still damp track. The off pace exit lap guaranteed he would not be in the lead after the pit cycle.

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Meanwhile Kogure was battling hard with the SC430 for the lead. They raced into the pits side by side with serious closing speed on a pair of GT300 cars that were also coming in. The GT500 cars took evasive action but made it in without any contact. After changing drivers and switching to dry tires, the pair raced back out.

The TOM'S SC430 now led Ryo Michigami in the Takata Dome NSX with Daisuke Ito in the ARTA NSX flying up behind them on hot tires. The three cars came together on lap 43 with the leader held up by a backmarker as they entered the front straight. The leaders went three wide, putting on some of the best racing the fans had seen all year. The melee continued for 20 more laps until the TOM'S SC430 was black flagged out of the lead. Officials determined that the car had illegally crossed the white line during the pit entry chaos.

The lead NSXs continued to push hard. Michigami and the Takata Dome team desperately wanted their first win of the season but it was not meant to be. He crossed the line just .282 of a second behind Ito, while the Epson NSX filled the final podium spot from some 23 seconds behind.

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Winner Daisuke Ito-"About the 'three wide' situation, the same kind of scene happened with the Integras in the support race. As Michigami and I watched it, we commented about how dangerous it was to run that way. But I was to find out just how dangerous it was when I got in that situation in this race [laughs]. But I knew I had to stay in there and I never thought about letting up on the accelerator. I am glad for the 1-2-3 NSX finish as well. As you know, the No. 18 machine had been having trouble in successive races and the Honda people and the staff had spent a lot of time working out the trouble spots and we asked them for the new revised parts as well. So, this was a race that we really wanted to win. So, I am glad that we were able to pay them back in this way for their efforts. After this win we are going to have to carry more handicap weights. But the next race is at [Honda's] home course, Suzuka, and it is a long race, so I believe that if we run a steady, strong race we will get a good result."

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