The weekend of the 700-km event at Suzuka, the "Pokka GT Summer Special" got underway in blistering heat and unrelenting levels of humidity.
Clear favourites to win this, the longest race of the season, the ARTA Honda guys were looking for better fortunes than on the season-opener.
Having won this race last year, there was confidence at the team of showing well. The pairing (Oshima/Ishiura) were also victorious at Round 3, the Fuji 400km event in May, and other long race on the calendar.
Not surprising with the amount of heat and intense sunshine, there were vines growing everywhere in the photography areas – it was jungle-like in places.
The Saturday morning Pit Walk proved as popular as ever.
A close-up of the current champions and of last year's winners on the event. Though the Hondas were expected to dominate, Lexus entries were also looking strong.
Looking back from Degner.
Coming in to this race 3rd in the points, the current champions have only one podium so far this season, and with 82kgs success ballast onboard, weren't expected to work miracles.
The ARTA Garaiya has has some superb results in this event, stealing back podium positions in the dying moments on more than one occasion. Despite a lot of weight on the car, the Michelins could be just the ticket.
Utilizing a knockout format like in F1, there was a lot more on-track traffic in the three sessions for each class.
Banking on performance from their Michelin tyres, the NISMO squad were aiming to bring as many points home as possible.
Putting in its most impressive qualifying result of the year, the #39 DENSO SARD SC430 made it through to S3, nailing 6th on the grid ahead of the race.
Another car expecting to do well. It's not only the tyres and the conditions in this pairing's case (Iguchi/Kunimoto), they've also proved to be remarkably consistent over the last few rounds. I wouldn't rule out a podium result.
The other Honda HSV-010 GT to have lost out in the opening round here at Suzuka, the Weider car of Loic Duval/Takashi Kogure was nevertheless 2nd in the points on the car's return to Honda's home circuit.
But as expected, the #8 ARTA HSV-010GT romped to pole position (with a scant 10 kgs' weight handicap in the car). What was not expected however, was who put the machine in the top spot. It was none other than SUPER GT debutant Takashi Kobayashi, who regularly pedals in the National class of Japanese F3. Definitely the biggest stir he's caused in his career thus far.
A view inside the vast three-car JLOC (Japan Lamborghini Owners' Club) pit garage.
One of the two spot entries contesting this round, the RQ's (Race Queen's?) Motorsports-entered Vemac 350R. Driver lineup features longtime Lamborghini driver Hisashi Wada 'Q'. The other spot entry is the #28 Porsche GT3 R (996) piloted by returnee and 1995 GT300 champion Yoshimi Ishibashi.