The #6 Wako’s 4CR Lexus LC 500 of Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita emerged triumphant in a thrilling showdown to the 2019 Super GT Series at Twin Ring Motegi on Sunday.
Oshima and Yamashita went into the final race of the season at the top of the points standings and as title favourites. However, two other crews were bidding to deprive them of the title, including the #37 LC 500 entered by KeePer TOM’S and driven by Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy.
Under clear skies and in front of 35,500 spectators, an intense fight developed, with the destiny of the title hanging in the balance until the second half of the race. Although the title favourites qualified on the front row of the grid, Oshima fell back to fifth position on the opening lap as he struggled to generate heat in his car’s tyres.
After the driver changes, Yamashita was running third, but with the Hirakawa/Cassidy Lexus on course for victory, he needed to finish second to be sure of the crown.
He made a bold overtaking move on the #36 au TOM’s LC 500 of Kazuki Nakajima and Yuhi Sekiguchi. The latter driver was in the car at the time, and went side-by-side with Yamashita in an attempt to reclaim second place, resulting in both cars running off the circuit and across the gravel at the final corner of the lap.
Neither car was seriously damaged in the incident. They regained the track with Yamashita ahead of Sekiguchi and subsequently finished in that order, giving the Wako’s 4CR car a crucial second place and pipping Hirakawa/Cassidy to the championship by just two points.
Sekiguchi maintained third place, with Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura fourth in the #38 Zent Cerumo LC 500 to lock out the top four positions for Lexus in the LC 500’s final race in the Super GT Series before it is retired from competition.
Yamashita said: “This was a very special race and I came into it with a determination that we really had to win the title. Since I had anticipated the situation where car No. 36 would be trying to block us, I had the feeling that I couldn’t be beaten there, and I am very glad that I was successful in the end. The shock when car No. 36 and I collided as I was passing it was really strong and I was worried that it might cause the car to start vibrating, so I was glad that it held out for me to the end.”
Oshima added: “It seems that the tyres weren’t well enough warmed up, so the first lap was really tough. I was very frustrated, but I knew I had to change my mindset and do the best I could and make up the loss afterwards. In the second half, Kenta [Yamashita] did a fantastic job of moving up. I’m really grateful to him.”
Lexus also dominated the teams’ championship in the 2019 Super GT Series, with KeePer TOM’s beating LeMans Wako’s by a solitary point.
Although the 2019 Super GT Series is now over, one event remains: a special race for both Super GT and DTM cars at Fuji Motor Speedway on 23/24 November. Six LC 500s will do battle with the cream of the Japanese and German championships.
Find out more about the road-going Lexus LC by clicking here.