The Mazda RX-7 from M7 Re: Amemiya Racing utterly dominated proceedings at Sepang last weekend. Nobuteru Taniguchi put the car 2nd on the grid for Sunday's 54-lap race before controlling the entire afternoon with teammate Ryo Orime.
And while those at the front got away cleanly, the same couldn't be said for the cars in the middle of the pack. Here's the result of the #5 Mach GoGoGo! Vemac 408R tapping the #19 WedsSports Lexus IS350 at the entry to turn 2, both cars falling to the back of the pack.
Proving they still make some cars out of metal. Damage wasn't terminal and the British-built machine went on to finish, though outside the points.
Qualifying third, Masami Kageyama had the #33 Hankook-shod Porsche into the lead within a handful of laps, and then proceeded to pull away at an alarming rate. Unfortunately their day ended after 38 laps with teammate Mitsuhiro Kinoshita at the wheel.
Last year's winners in GT300, the #2 I.M. Jihan Shiden endured a fraught qualifying…
And then Hiroki Katoh seemed not to have the measure of the cars around him in the race. All very unexpected for this perennially quick car.
Speaking of quick, the Hasemi Motorsport Fairlady Z (350Z) qualified 7th in the hands of Masataka Yanagida. Start driver Kazuki Hoshino had the bright yellow Nissan up to 4th by the driver switch on lap 25.
On the other end of outcomes was the 365 ThunderAsia Racing Mosler MT900M of Melvin Choo and Tim Sugden. The team had hoped for things to go well at their 'home' track, but this wasn't to be the case. By one-third distance they were being lapped by the quickest GT300 cars. Clearly, the 130kgs' of lead in the floor of the car (to peg it to the rest of the class) is an over-compensation.
Tatsuya Kataoka survived the opening-lap contact with the #5 Vemac, running steadily throughout his stint to hand over to Manabu "Max" Orido at half distance.
Pole-sitters the #11 JIM Gainer Ferrari F430 lost some ground in the early laps, though Tetsuya Tanaka remained within touch of the top group throughout his stint.
The Evanelion Corolla AXIO has had its wheels painted (if memory serves, they were grey last time). Koki Saga qualified the car, with IRL refugee Kosuke Matsuura taking care of driving duties for the opening stint.
GT300 produced some fantastic on-track battles; here's Hiroki Yoshimoto muscling his way past Hiroyuki Iiri in the #87 Lamborghini Gallardo.
But it was Taniguchi who wowed the crowds. Up to 2nd by lap 10, he then made an audacious pass for the lead six tours later – and that's exactly where the car stayed for the rest of the day.
Here's Matsuura taking on the #86 Lambo of Yuhi Sekiguchi.
Most impressive among the three Gallardos was the #88 machine of Shinya Hosokawa and Atsushi Yogo. Hosokawa qualified the car a massively impressive fourth, then fought for third in the early stages. With Yogo behind the wheel, the car came home seventh.
You can always count on the ARTA Garaiya doing well at a high-speed circuit like Sepang. That and the driver pairing behind the wheel – one of the best in Japan. The Morio Nitta/Shinichi Takagi pairing qualified fifth, stayed with the top group all day, and ended the event a strong 2nd.
After Tetsuya Tanaka handed the #11 Ferrari F430 over to teammate Katsuyuki Hiranaka, the latter kept things respectable, earning the pair fourth at the flag.
Max Orido drove the second stint in the WedsSports IS 350, netting ninth and a pair of championship points for the pair's efforts.
Start driver Melvin Choo made it through only 18 laps before having to bring the car in, and there it stayed until partner Tim Sugden came back out near the end for 9 laps. Let's hop their luck turns for the second half of the season.
The Nissans once again ran like clockwork. Here they are in the closing stages battling for fifth, and this is exactly the way they finished.
Call me wrong! I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't think this pairing would be able to maintain their position of (then) 2nd in the title hunt. well, I take it back – this duo need to be watched. Another trouble-free run ended with another podium on Sunday. Takuto Iguchi and Yuji Kunimoto have been a bit of a revelation so far this season – well done!
GT veteran Hideshi Matsuda took over the triple a Vantage GT2 for the latter half of proceedings, but their 12th-place qualifying was only mirrored in the team's result – 12th and outside the points.
Back at the front, Orime drove serenely to the chequered flag, winning by over 27 seconds.
As the podium ceremony got underway, I got a look at the rear of the WedsSports machine – nasty taping job, guys!
And in the centre of the podium, no surprises as Taniguchi and Orime took their second victory of the season, now well ahead in the points' standings. The title is theirs to lose, though I wouldn't expect it. They were leading at Okayama when steering issues forced them out near the end. Definitely title favourites.
That's it for the GT300 round-up from Sepang. Stay tuned for other posts coming soon from what was a thoroughly enjoyable (though brutally humid) Sepang weekend.
– Len Clarke