The #17 Honda NSX-GT shared by Tsukakoshi and Nobuharu Matsushita appeared well-placed to score an initial victory of the growing season in the latter stages of the 450km Suzuka race, as a perfectly-timed safety car on lap 49 of 77 vaulted Tsukakoshi to the top of the field.
However, Tsukakoshi’s pace tailed off dramatically with around seven laps remaining, allowing the Impul Nissan of Kazuki Hiramine to close in rapidly and ultimately pass for the lead on lap 75.
Tsukakoshi could barely cling to second place prior to the SARD Toyota and NDDP Racing Nissan to place he and Matsushita equal-second in the championship with three rounds to go.
Real Racing chief engineer Yasuhiro Tasuka explained post-race a refuelling problem through the car’s second stop on lap 48, one lap prior to the safety car arrived, meant only around two-thirds of the quantity of fuel planned actually made its way up to speed the #17 car.
However, the safety car and a later full-course yellow helped Tsukakoshi conserve enough fuel to help keep your hands on second.
“Strategy-wise, things were going well, and we were lucky to clear our second stop right before the safety car,”Tasuka told Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition. “But [at the next stop] the fuel didnt go in properly. We did things in the same way we’d planned, but finally the fuel didnt go in.
“On Friday, we measured the refuelling rate and predicated on that people decided just how many seconds we’d have to refuel through the race. However the reality was the refuelling rate was much slower, and we’d nowhere near enough fuel.
“Despite the fact that we were careful, we had this type of problem, so we have to properly investigate the reason.”
Safety car scuppers Mugen victory chance
As the safety car exercised well for Real Racing, another Honda squad, Team Mugen, lost an obvious shot at victory by virtue of not getting its second mandatory refuelling stop cleared prior to the caution.
That left the Red Bull-sponsored car shared by Toshiki Oyu and Ukyo Sasahara, which had started third and led for a few 28 laps in the hands of Oyu, a lowly sixth place at the final.
#16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Talking with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition, a visibly dejected Oyu said a first Mugen win for 20 years – and an initial for tyre supplier Dunlop in five years – was on the cards prior to the safety car.
“We’d some good and the bad with the pace, but I was confident we’re able to win,” Oyu said.“We didnt make any mistakes, the automobile was working well if we’re able to have had just one single more little bit of luck
“I dont like considering what-if, but theres very little more to state.
“However the fact we could actually battle at the front end for such a long time, it creates me feel just like the tyres are improving, and we have been definitely making steps forward.”
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