• No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC bags GT300 class Drivers and Team Championship titles
• No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT grabs podium finish after an outstanding performance
The Toyota camp had reasons to rejoice at the 2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, as a thrilling encounter in the final round (Round 8) resulted in a victorious No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC passing the checkered flag, with No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT competing brilliantly for a second spot finish. The much-awaited contest was held on a dry course and under bright, clear skies at the Motegi Twin Ring in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan.
With this momentous win and overall second win of the season, the No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC – expertly driven by Takeshi Tsuchiya and Takamitsu Matsui throughout the series – also bagged the GT300 class Drivers and Team Championship titles.
The early stages of the all-important race belonged to No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT – driven by Koki Saga and Yuichi Nakayama – that glided comfortably in the leading position through the first turn and beyond. Early threat to its spot came from competitor car No. 65 that made futile attempts to exploit any gaps. Well behind in the competition, the eventual winner of the race had a lukewarm start to the race.
No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC lost ground in the opening laps and its driver Takeshi Tsuchiya seemed visibly reluctant to increase pace. This caution hinted towards a possible tactical maneuver that would contribute to a strong comeback, and ultimately a victory for the team.
Lap 15 into the race marked a pit stop for most cars, but foregoing the regulatory halt was of much tactical interest to the No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC that was now lagging behind in the tenth spot. It headed towards the pit lane but took only half the time compared to competitors by skipping the tire-change and bringing Takamitsu Matsui on the driver’s seat. He immediately started making an effect on the proceedings by overtaking competing car No. 65 before it could warm up adequately with the fresh tires. His ability to handle the heated contest with calm perseverance was particularly impressive in the last leg of the race, as partner Takeshi Tsuchiya commented in the post-race press conference: “It was great to see how cool Takamitsu Matsui was as he caught up with the leader. I hope we can continue to bring up young drivers like him.”
No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT, still going strong in the leader’s position, mirrored the ‘no-tire change’ tactic and only switched from Koki Saga to Yuichi Nakayama in a bid to finish strong.
Having reserved its full-throttle for the final stages of the race, No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC came back from behind to clock an incredible speed with the leaders of the pack. What then ensued was a close contest for the ultimate prize. Takamitsu Matsui held on to the pace while his competitor Yuichi Nakayama tried in vain to hold off the charge. Finally, in lap 34 of the nail-biting contest, No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC passed No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT on a ‘V’ corner, and retained the marginal lead till it sped passed the checkered flag. The jubilant winner was trailed by the second best racer by a fraction of a second, completing the race with a gap of 0.929 seconds.
Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “We are overjoyed with this championship win by the No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC team and the podium finish by the No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT team. We congratulate the Toyota team for their excellent and inspiring performance throughout the championship. Finishing on a high will lend the drivers and the support staff a world of confidence and momentum for the next championship.”
Yoshitsugu added: “Participating and excelling in such racing initiatives lays the foundations in our journey towards building impressive, ‘ever-better’ cars that bring satisfaction and a smile on our customers’ faces. We thank our racers and customers who bestow their confidence in us, and strengthen our research and development efforts with their insights and feedback to push the limits of engineering.”
• No. 25 TOYOTA 86 MC VivaC (Takeshi Tsuchiya and Takamitsu Matsui)
o Race: 1st, 49 laps
o Best Lap: 1'50.367
• No. 31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT (Koki Saga and Yuichi Nakayama)
o Race: 2nd, 49 laps
o Best Lap: 1'49.854