Kiyoto Fujinami resisted stint-long pressure from Kei Cozzolino to claim his and Yogibo Racing’s maiden Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS victory alongside Naoki Yokomizo at Sportsland SUGO this afternoon.
The bright blue Ferrari jumped from second to first at the start and remained the de facto leader thereafter despite coming under intense scrutiny from CarGuy Racing’s 488, which ended the opening stint in second place courtesy of Takeshi Kimura. D’station Racing’s Aston Martin shared by Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii completed the overall podium.
Further back, GTO Racing Team’s Mercedes-AMG of Brian Lee and Hideto Yasuoka scored its first win of the season by passing Akiland Racing’s Toyota after the pitstops. The pole-winning GR Supra shared by Masayoshi Oyama and Masayuki Ueda then slipped another place to Team GMB’s Hiroaki Hatano and Shinya Hosokawa before the end.
FERRARI VS FERRARI TO THE FINISH
The combination of Yokomizo’s demon start and Fujinami’s stern defence defined Yogibo Racing’s maiden series win in a race that began on a slightly damp track following rain after qualifying.
Still, slick Pirellis were the only realistic option for the entire field which hurtled towards Turn 1 with Yokomizo – who’d started second – well clear of poleman Tanart Sathienthirakul. The Thai driver’s slow response to the lights also allowed Kimura through before three cars – AAS Motorsport’s Porsche, the D’station Aston Martin and Team Uematsu McLaren – contested third at the apex.
But three into one most definitely did not go, and it was Sathienthirakul in the middle who was squeezed and spun around before being T-boned by an unsighted Prince Abu Ibrahim. Both were able to continue until Triple Eight JMR’s damaged Mercedes-AMG drove straight on into the barrier, which required a Safety Car period.
A fantastic restart helped Yokomizo immediately re-establish some of his advantage over Kimura who was being closely tracked by Yusuke Yamasaki’s Comet Racing Honda, while Hoshino’s Aston Martin had dropped to fourth amidst the first corner drama.
Yokomizo’s lead was back up to five seconds when the pit window after 25 minutes, which – along with CarGuy’s five-second Success Penalty and a drive-through for Comet’s Honda – gave Fujinami a little breathing space after the driver changes.
But that all changed once Cozzolino was up to speed and into second. It took just three more laps for the Ferraris to be running together out front where a change for the lead looked likely at any moment.
But despite rarely running more than 0.5s apart Cozzolino could do nothing to dislodge or distract Fujinami despite showing his nose and taking different lines on multiple occasions. And although apparently faster, CarGuy’s 488 never worked a clear opportunity to overtake Yogibo’s former Super GT300 champion who drove a superb defensive race. Just 0.4s covered them at the chequered flag.
Fujii and D’station made the most of Comet’s penalty, which was incurred for crossing the pitlane demarcation line, to come home a lonely third. He was 10 seconds behind the winner but 33 clear of Seiji Ara whose Plus with BMW Team Studie co-driver Tomohide Yamaguchi completed the opening stint in fifth.
X Works battled back from a spin in qualifying, which left David Pun starting ninth, to finish fifth following the latter’s strong stint. His co-driver, Shaun Thong, hounded Ara to the finish but ultimately took the chequered flag less than 0.3s behind.
Keita Sawa held off Kantadhee Kusiri, who continued AAS’s impressive recovery drive, to come home sixth in the ABSSA McLaren that also featured Koizumi Hiroshi, while Team Uematsu’s 720S – shared by Tadao Uematsu and Yudai Uchida – won the Am class in eighth overall.
Behind, Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Nick Foster lost a chunk of their championship lead to Kimura/Cozzolino by finishing ninth. As such, Triple Eight JMR’s #99 Mercedes-AMG can no longer mathematically clinch the title tomorrow.
Watch Race 2 live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and J Sports in Japan at 11:30 JST (GMT +9).