Super GT Impreza fans have been in a 10-year dry spell. The last time a Subaru won was in 1998, back when the GT300 series was still under the JGTC banner, but the Cusco Impreza team has been gaining momentum this season. They've been working closely with Subaru to get the car up to the front of the pack. It was only a matter of time before drivers Tetsuya Yamano and Kota Sasaki would capture that elusive win. They came close in Round 2 with a Second Place finish at Okayama. Things really came together though in Round 4 at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.
The weather on qualifying day was miserably muggy. Temps were in the upper 80s with scattered showers. Malaysia in early summer isn't exactly the ideal place to be if your car doesn't have air conditioning and the windows don't even roll down. The damp surface was perfect for taking advantage of all-wheel drive though. In the final Super Lap qualifying session Sasaki ran a full second faster than the rest of the field. The famous D1 judge, Manabu Orido, placed the brand new WedsSport IS350 up next to him on the front row. The aging WedsSport Toyota Celica has finally been retired.
The main event got off to a bumpy start. A Ferrari F430 punted the IS350 in turn two of lap one. The melee took both cars out of contention and put everyone behind them on top of each other. A great dogfight erupted over Second Place with several cars occupying the position in the opening laps. Meanwhile Yamano in the Subaru motored off into a 10-second lead.
With a clean track and no pressure from behind, the team was able to run at a relaxed pace to conserve the car. Their mandatory drivers change was a little slow, but they had the time. As the last car pulled in for its pit stop, the Cusco Impreza team found themselves all alone out in the lead. Sasaki was able to cruise it in from there. This not only broke the 10-year winless streak, but also bumped the team up to Second Place in the championship. The points leading Mola Leopalace 350Z finished Second followed by the ORC Amemiya RX-7 in Third. We'll try to keep you updated on the series, at least until someone starts broadcasting these amazing races over here.
BTCC Racing: As Intense As Ever
The Super Touring era has long since passed, but the lower cost formula, which replaced it, is cranking out some really good racing. Twenty-six drivers are competing in nine different models, each of which have those classic British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) wings, wheels, and air dams. But with the new cost effective rules package, teams are more willing than ever to trade a little paint for a win. The annual trip to Rockingham demonstrated just how closely matched the cars are, with a different manufacturer winning at each of the three rounds.
The tarmac was dry at the start of Round 1, but an early morning shower had left the grassy runoff damp and slick. Gordon Shedden was in the pole position for the first time of the season. He would really need to work the pedals of the Orange Team Halfords Honda Civic on the standing start. The car does well once it gets up to speed, but it's easy prey for the rear-wheel drive BMWs and torquey SEAT diesels off the line.
Shedden barely kept his rear bumper clear going into turn one. Behind him was a furball of Vauxhall Vectra, MG ZS, and little Chevrolet Lacetti sedans. He kept his head down though. The swarm stayed in tight until the rain came at the close of the race. With no time to pit for rain tires, the great drivers really stood out. Shedden squeaked across the finish line in First, just three seconds ahead of Darren Turner's SEAT Leon TDI and Matt Neal's Vauxhall Vectra. Mat Jackson would come in First for Round 2 in his BMW 320si E90, but then bury it in the gravel traps in Round 3. That gave the final win of the day to Matt Neal.
Here's what Shedden had to say about his first win of the season, "To win Race One under the circumstances was really special, and I want to dedicate that win to David Leslie. Two Fourth Place finishes after that are results I'm delighted with, especially with the ballast onboard in Race Two and the fact I couldn't see anything in Race Three because my car steamed up. I'm delighted to bring it home in one piece and to get some solid points." David Leslie and Richard Lloyd had just passed in a plane crash two weeks earlier. The legendary touring car drivers were honored during the opening ceremonies, not with a moment of silence, but with a deserved roaring applause.