Nissan dominate Fuji race one
Yuke Taniguchi and Alex Imperatori gave Nissan NISMO and KCMG their maiden Blancpain GT Series Asia victory at Fuji, after fighting through from sixth on the grid. Nick Foster and Jono Lester’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 was second after getting the better of pole-sitters Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss, who completed the podium in the second KCMG’s second GT-R NISMO GT3 despite serving a success penalty.
In the opening stint Liberati led the way. But after initially establishing a 1.3s advantage, the Italian was reeled in and passed by Dennis Lind’s FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán, which had moved from third to second amongst the first corner shuffle on lap one.
That put the two cars with the biggest pitstop success penalties – 15s and 10s respectively – out front. And with their advantages over the chasing pack roughly the same, much would depend on the driver changes, which began after 25 minutes.
Liberati stopped a lap earlier than Lind and handed over to Strauss who emerged in what would become first. Meanwhile, FFF Racing’s slightly later stop wasn’t enough to negate their 15s success penalty, which saw Martin Kodric initially slot into second before dropping to fourth on his out lap.
However, all eyes were soon on the lead battle between KCMG’s two Nissans, the second of which – now driven by Imperatori – enjoyed a standout opening stint in the hands of Taniguchi. The Japanese amateur initially took advantage of contact that sent Sandy Stuvik’s Porsche into the Turn 2 barriers on lap one, but looked totally at home running third overall for most of the first 25 minutes. That was until traffic allowed Nico Bastian, Jono Lester and Martin Rump to pounce in quick succession just before the pit window opened.
Nevertheless, Taniguchi’s excellent work allied to an early pitstop and no success penalty ensured Imperatori was in the mix once the pit window closed. And the former Super GT driver wasted no time taking his chance by passing Strauss at his first opportunity and setting fastest lap of the race in the process.
While the leading Nissan sprinted clear, Strauss was soon contending with Nick Foster who’d already dispatched Kodric after taking over from Lester. The pair ran side-by-side for several corners and even made light contact at one point before the Ferrari completed its decisive move.
Behind, Patric Niederhauser – whose GruppeM Mercedes-AMG he shared with Bastian also served a five-second success penalty – snatched fourth from Kodric on the penultimate lap to reduce his championship deficit.
Two Audis were up next, Rump and Franky Cheng’s Absolute Racing example beating Phoenix Racing Asia’s R8 shared by Alex Yoong and Shaun Thong, while a stellar stint from Davide Rigon helped HubAuto Corsa’s second Ferrari climb from 16th to eighth in the final result.
Japanese success continued in the AM Cup class thanks to KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka, whose Audi beat AMAC Motorsport’s Lamborghini driven by William Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson.