The Lexus LC 500 sports coupe has continued its run of success in Japan’s Super GT Championship, with its fourth victory in four rounds.
Finnish/Japanese pair Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate in the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC 500 won a dramatic rain-affected 81-lap race at Sugo, after starting from seventh.
The Lexus WAKO’S 4CR LC 500 entry of Kazuya Oshima and Andrea Caldarelli finished third and are the new leaders of the eight-round series.
The race began in damp but drying conditions, with Kovalainen choosing hard-compound wet-weather tyres for the first stint.
Holding third place, the team delayed their pit stop to ensure they would only have to change tyres once, opting for dry-weather slicks and a driver change.
Hirate benefited from a safety-car period and was still leading 10 laps from the finish when more rain made parts of the circuit treacherous on slick tyres.
On the last lap, drivers battled to stay on the slippery track with the DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC 500 recording its first victory of the season by 1.2 seconds.
Kovalainen said the changing weather resulted in a crazy race where strategy and tyre choice were crucial.
“This season our car had been delivering high performance from the beginning, and today the tyre choice and the timing of the safety car intervention turned out best for us,” he said
Four different Lexus teams have now won races in the first half of the Super GT Series.
Weight handicaps are applied to successful cars, meaning the WAKO’S LC 500 – with two second places so far this year – carried 60kg at Sugo and previous series leaders Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy (KeePer TOM’S LC 500) 72kg.
The next round sees the Super GT Series return to Fuji, the spiritual home of the high performance Lexus F Line, on August 5-6.
When they last raced at Fuji in May, Lexus filled the GT 500 podium.