Toyota started off the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT 300 series recently with a bang thanks to an astounding victory and a thrilling podium finish at Okayama International Circuit. UPGARAGE 86 MC, driven by Yuhki Nakayama and Takashi Kobayashi, won the race, while HOPPY 86 MC co-piloted by Takamitsu Matsui and Sho Tsuboi finished third in the tightly-fought opening round of the new season.
“We would like to congratulate the teams for an excellent start and exceptional performance in the opening round of the season,” said Yugo Miyamoto, Chief Representative of Middle East & North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “At Toyota, we believe that racing events such as the AUTOBACS SUPER GT series are an opportunity to not only test the mettle of our performance machines and leading technologies, but also to guide the future development of Toyota vehicles, as we continue to make ‘ever-better’ cars. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our fans for their support and constant encouragement for our racing initiatives.”
At the start of the GT300 class race held at Okayama International Circuit, the No. 88 rival team held the lead, followed by the No. 11 and the No. 21 competitor teams. But tightly-fought battles ensued as No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC, with Sho Tsuboi at the wheel, joined the competition for the top four positions, showing off its superior performance.
As the leading No. 88 gradually began to fall off the pace, No. 11 managed to pass it on the hairpin of lap nine and Sho Tsuboi in the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC also managed to get by No. 88 on the tenth lap. Charging up from behind, the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT, driven by Koki Saga, also overtook No, 88 on the 12th lap to move into the fourth position. By the 15th lap of the race, the battle for the lead was a four-car fight between the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC, No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT and two competitor teams, the No. 11 and No. 21.
Things changed when the No. 21 made a swift inside move on the last corner of the lap 17 to move into the lead. Then on lap 21, the No. 11 was passed from behind by the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT. With this, it became a two-car battle for the lead between the No. 21 and the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT. The two cars raced on nose-to-tail in a tight contest until the 29th lap when there was a light bump-up between the three lead machines as the No. 21 and the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT got caught behind a competitor team as they slowed to enter the pit lane, which resulted in the other car to advance in position.
When all the teams had finished their routine pit stops, the lead cars were the ones that had opted for a no-tire-change strategy to cut pit time. The No. 18 UPGARAGE 86 MC, with Yuhki Nakayama at the driver’s seat, had been in 9th place when making its pit stop on lap 28 and the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC, driven by Takamitsu Matsui, made its pit stop on lap 30 chose to make no tire change. When all the pit stops were complete, it was the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC that led the race. Right behind it came the No. 18 UPGARAGE 86 MC, and about 10 seconds behind them in the third position came rival teams, the No. 65 and the No. 7.
The battle for the lead was a close nose-to-tail contest until the 57th lap when Kobayashi in the No. 18 UPGARAGE 86 MC overtook Matsui. Meanwhile, the No. 7 running in fourth position was putting pressure on the No. 65 until it managed to pass it on the 70th lap. Then, on the 72nd lap, the No. 7 passed the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC.
Meanwhile the No. 18 UPGARAGE 86 MC in the lead managed to cross the finish line first. This turned the team’s first SUPER GT podium into a victory as well. The No. 7 finished second and the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC secured the third place.