Super GT took bragging rights over DTM Saturday at Fuji Speedway as regular Japanese series front-runner Nick Cassidy took a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the first-ever “Dream Race,” a doubleheader joint event between the Japanese GT series and its European-based counterpart.
The KeePer TOM’S Lexus LC500 driver was untroubled from his dominant 1m41.827s pole position after fellow front row starter Loic Duval failed to make the grid after crashing on the installation lap. Once the race got underway, the New Zealander quickly established a healthy lead over the chasing cars of Ronnie Quintarelli (Motul AUTECH Nissan GT-R) and Naoki Yamamoto (RAYBRIG Honda NSX-GT).
Cassidy’s lead was healthy enough that he was able to overcome from a shaky pit stop in which his crew struggled to quickly switch both front wheels. Not even a late-race safety car period could shake him: Despite the novelty of the new-to-Super GT IndyCar-style restart, Cassidy held off a late charge from Koudai Tsukakoshi, who finished second in his Keihin Honda NSX-GT, ahead of Yamamoto.
“It’s been the perfect day: pole and victory are fantastic achievements, and I’m really pleased we could show our strengths,” said Cassidy. “But the biggest thing is that we got to have this race (with DTM) today – and I hope we can race again in the future.
“I grew up racing in Europe, and always looked up to the manufacturers and drivers competing in DTM. I really loved the style of this weekend – qualifying and racing on the same day is a lot of fun, and it’s not often we get to race on our own. I really enjoyed that, too. With more experience, the two championships can get closer – I really hope we get to do this again after this weekend.”
Frenchman Benoit Treluyer (Audi Sport Japan RS 5 DTM) emerged a slightly surprised victor of the seven-car DTM contingent, finishing sixth overall. Behind him, 2019 champion Rene Rast (Audi Sport RS 5 DTM) finished eighth having spent much of his race embroiled in spirited scraps with a number of drivers, most notably Quintarelli, with whom he enjoyed a ding-dong battle, exchanging position as they fought into the Turn 1 hairpin.
“I had a lot of fun; I really enjoyed it in the car!” related Treluyer. “I made some mistakes – at the start, I got pushed by Tachikawa, but I was touching him a little bit as well, that’s racing. Anyway, after that, I caught up, then we lost a lot of time during the pit stop – I guess that was because we didn’t practice during the week. I wasn’t ready and most of it was my fault. After after the stop, I was able to catch up and could manage the second set of tires a little bit better. I also had a good restart. Then there was the situation with Rocky (Mike Rockenfeller): I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape the guys who were inside. They didn’t see me. It’s a shame that he spun because of me, I was really sorry for that, but it was part of the race. It was good to have solid pace during the race – to come back after three years was really cool!”
Rockenfeller (Audi Sport RS 5 DTM) had started well from fourth place but faded before being pitched into the spin by Treluyer as the field scrabbled through the tight Dunlop Corner after the restart. The German came home 13th. BMW’s Kamui Kobayashi was another stand-out performer, enjoying a late-race scrap with Rockenfeller to finish 14th.
Fellow BMW drivers Marco Wittmann and Alex Zanardi both struggled: the German gambled on a first-lap pit stop, but was later forced to make a second stop, eventually finishing 18th, a lap adrift. Zanardi only narrowly made the race after his crew discovered a technical issue on the installation lap. He was forced into the pits for a lengthy stop during the race, too, eventually rejoining for the closing laps, and finishing eight laps down.
The drama begun before the race had even started for front-row starter Duval. The Frenchman locked up and slid into the barriers on the pre-race installation lap. The impact broke his left-front suspension and bodywork, leaving the car too extensively damaged to take part. His Audi RS 5 DTM will be repaired in time for Sunday’s race.