The ARTA Honda team led the way on the opening day of official SUPER GT pre-season testing at Okayama on Saturday, with Nirei Fukuzumi setting the fastest lap.
Fukuzumi set what turned out to be the day’s benchmark time of 1m17.827s just under halfway through the two-hour morning session in the #16 Honda NSX-GT he shares with his new teammate Hiroki Otsu.
That was about 1.6 seconds slower than the best time set during the manufacturer’s testing in Okayama in early February, but with the important caveat that this is the first test of the year in which the use of carbon neutral fuel is mandatory.
Unusually warm weather for the season also likely contributed to the slower lap times compared to the February test.
Fukuzumi led a one-two for Honda, just 0.036 seconds ahead of the #100 Team Kunimitsu car driven by Naoki Yamamoto.
Behind the two leading Hondas, the #36 Toyota TOM’S of Sho Tsuboi was next, less than two-tenths off the pace, while Tomoki Nojiri placed three NSX-GTs in the top four of the #8 ARTA car.
The four Nissan Zs occupied places five to eight, the fastest of the quartet being the #1 Impul car (Kazuki Hiramine) followed by the Kondo Racing machine shod in Yokohama tires (Daiki Sasaki).
NISMO’s two factory riders fitted with Michelin tires placed seventh and eighth, driven by Ronnie Quintarelli and Katsumasa Chiyo respectively.
Toyota’s remaining riders struggled to find the rhythm, filling the last five places, led by the Rookie Racing GR Supra which is driven single-handedly this weekend by Kazuya Oshima.
Rising temperatures in the two-hour afternoon session meant there was no improvement from the morning in the GT500 class.
Fukuzumi once again set the tone in this session with a 1m18.421s at the very end of the day, during the 10 minutes of racing reserved for the premier class. Toshiki Oyu made it 1-2 for ARTA, 0.180s slower in the #8 car, while Mitsunori Takaboshi finished third in the #3 Nissan.
In the GT300 class, it was the JLOC Lamborghini team who set the tone as Takashi Kogure set the benchmark time of 1m25.400s in the #88 Huracan GT3 Evo during the morning session.
#88 JLOC Lamborghini GT3
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Yoshiaki Katayama was the surprise second fastest in Team LeMans’ Audi R8 LMS GT3 which he shares with former Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi, while veteran Morio Nitta was third fastest in the Lexus RC F GT3 from K-tunes Racing.
April’s all-new hybrid-powered Lexus LC500h GT got off to a good start with the sixth fastest time in the hands of Kazuto Kotaka.
The fastest of the afternoon was the Max Racing Toyota GR Supra GT of Atsushi Miyake with a 1m26.199s.
The only red flag of the day came in the late morning when Team Mach Toyota 86 parent chassis #5 came to rest on the outside of Turn 3.
Subaru’s revamped BRZ also had problems in the afternoon when it came to a stop at the pit entrance, but the session remained green.
Testing continues on Sunday with two more two-hour sessions scheduled.
Okayama SUPER GT (GT500 class) test times:
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