Narain Karthikeyan wins race two at Fuji ahead of Marco Wittmann

Narain Karthikeyan wins race two at Fuji ahead of Marco Wittmann

Narain Karthikeyan
Photo: Super GT

Honda’s Narain Karthikeyan claimed victory in the second Super GT / DTM race at the Fuji Speedway in Japan, winning ahead of BMW’s Marco Wittmann and Audi’s Loïc Duval, whose positions were swapped after the race.

Karthikeyan started the race from the front row of the grid after pole-sitter Daisuke Nakajima was given a five-place grid penalty for a change of chassis after the car’s big accident in practice earlier in the weekend.

Audi’s Duval thus inherited pole, but Karthikeyan was able to pass the Frenchman on the second lap heading into the opening turn, with Duval slipping down the order through the opening laps, ending the fourth lap in fourth.

The early battle for the win seemed to be between Karthikeyan and fellow Honda racer Naoki Yamamoto, before Koudai Tsukakoshi passed his fellow NSX racer for second on lap 11, after a one-lap safety car period which was required after Duval picked up a left-rear puncture and left debris from his wheel arch on the circuit.

Karthikeyan led into the pitstop phase of the race, after which Benoït Tréluyer emerged in the lead in his Audi, although the Frenchman would be forced to pit again later due to having made his first stop under the initial safety car period.

The second half of the race saw much reduced racing action, as the safety car was called again on lap 20 when René Rast, who had been running in the top ten, also picked up a left-rear puncture and again left debris on the circuit.

Six laps behind the safety car followed, with racing resuming on lap 26 with only ten minutes left in the race. The field again carried out an indy-style restart, bunching the field up, leading to contact several corners in at the restart.

Tsykakoshi, an early contender for the win, made contact with fellow Honda driver Tomoko Nojiri on the run up to Turn 4, spinning the ARTA NSX across the circuit and eliminating both drivers.

Further around the lap, the Lexus’ of Kazuya Oshima and Yuji Kunimoto spun at Turn 10 in the middle of the circuit, leaving fellow Lexus driver Heikki Kovalainen and Kazuki Nakajima nowhere to go to avoid contact.

James Rossiter then pulled off the circuit at Turn 1 with damage to the front of his Nissan, with all of the debris and stricken cars around the circuit calling the safety car out once again.

That ultimately left only enough time for a one-lap restart and sprint to the finish, and the lack of indy-style restart gave Karthikeyan a clear run to his first win in Super GT machinery.

Wittmann had to defend hard for second on the final lap, with Duval actually making it past the BMW driver with slight contact a few corners from the end. However, the officials decided the move was unfair and Duval was handed a post-race one-second penalty, dropping him to third.

Yamamoto claimed fourth, having pitted for a second time just before the lap 18 safety car period. That dropped the Honda driver to the back of the pack but he was able to scythe forward near the end on fresher rubber.

BMW’s Kamui Kobayashi was fifth after losing out to Yamamoto on the final lap, ahead of poleman Nakajima in sixth.

Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller claimed seventh, just ahead of the leading Lexus of Ryo Hirakawa in eighth.

The top ten was completed by Rast and Tréluyer, with both drivers having made two stops in the race.

All drivers were classified, even though six drivers effectively failed to finish after the contact five laps from the end.

Race result

1 64 Narain KARTHIKEYAN Modulo Nakajima Racing Honda NSX-GT 31 57:38.362 1:31.572 2
2 11 Marco WITTMANN BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM 31 0.935 1:32.604 7
3 28 Loïc DUVAL Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi RS5 DTM 31 1.825 1:32.886 1
4 1 Naoki YAMAMOTO TEAM KUNIMITSU Honda NSX-GT 31 3.412 1:31.864 3
5 0 Kamui KOBAYASHI BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM 31 3.743 1:33.219 13
6 16 Daisuke NAKAJIMA TEAM MUGEN Honda NSX-GT 31 4.356 1:32.277 6
7 99 Mike ROCKENFELLER Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline Audi RS5 DTM 31 4.536 1:33.291 8
8 37 Ryo HIRAKAWA LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S Lexus LC500 31 4.681 1:32.082 9
9 33 René RAST Audi Sport Team Rosberg Audi RS5 DTM 31 5.624 1:32.764 4
10 21 Benoït TRÉLUYER WRT Hitotsuyama Team Audi Sport Audi RS5 DTM 31 7.226 1:32.976 15
11 23 Tsugio MATSUDA NISMO Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 31 7.542 1:32.925 17
12 24 Mitsunori TAKABOSHI KONDO RACING Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 31 7.635 1:33.136 21
13 4 Alessandro ZANARDI BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM 31 7.680 1:34.062 22
14 39 Heikki KOVALAINEN LEXUS TEAM SARD Lexus LC500 31 8.950 1:33.475 16
15 19 Yuji KUNIMOTO LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH Lexus LC500 31 9.310 1:33.483 14
16 6 Kazuya OSHIMA LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Lexus LC500 31 9.311 1:32.130 20
17 12 James ROSSITER TEAM IMPUL Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 26 + 5 LAPS 1:34.357 19
18 3 Kohei HIRATE NDDP RACING with B-MAX Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 26 + 5 LAPS 1:33.094 18
19 36 Kazuki NAKAJIMA LEXUS TEAM au TOM’S Lexus LC500 26 + 5 LAPS 1:33.248 11
20 38 Hiroaki ISHIURA LEXUS TEAM ZENT CERUMO Lexus LC500 26 + 5 LAPS 1:32.084 10
21 17 Koudai TSUKAKOSHI KEIHIN REAL RACING Honda NSX-GT 25 + 6 LAPS 1:32.120 5
22 8 Tomoki NOJIRI ARTA Honda NSX-GT 25 + 6 LAPS 1:32.831 12