Big in Japan
In fact, the demonstration run of the DTM cars at the Japanese SUPER GT Series season finale on Saturday already was an emotional moment for everyone involved. However, the programme at the Twin Ring Motegi topped it all. After Loïc Duval (Audi), Augusto Farfus (BMW) and Maro Engel (Mercedes-AMG) had completed demonstration laps together with the works-cars from Honda, Lexus and Nissan, like on the previous day, the six cars were lined up on the main straight for an official photo call. Numerous photographers and camera teams were aligned as if it where the red carpet for the Oscar ceremony, while a group of Japanese fans yelled “SUPER GT / DTM” in the background.
Soon after that, over 50,000 spectators at the race track witnessed a historical moment. Not only did the official pre-race driver introductions start with the presentation of Farfus, Duval and Engel. The three DTM cars also were placed at the front of the field and participated in the official formation lap behind the safety car. After the first lap, the three guest cars from the DTM took a short connection to leave the track while the SUPER GT field continued its lap to take the flying start. “An emotional moment,” DTM boss Gerhard Berger enthused. “There couldn’t have been a bigger token of appreciation for the DTM. The grandstands were packed and the race was broadcast live on TV in Japan.”
Brazilian Augusto Farfus was really impressed, too: “It is a real honour to be involved in such an important moment of the event. We drove behind the safety cars and the police motorcyles while the entire SUPER GT field was behind us. That was incredible!”
Thus, a significant visit of the DTM to the race track, 200 kilometres north of Tokio, came to an end in a great way. Away from the race track, the weekend was marked by unity. Representatives of the DTM organisation used the weekend for intense conversations with SUPER GT series’ organiser GTA and the motorsport representatives of Honda, Lexus and Nissan NISMO. Work on the joint goal, unified technical regulations for both series from 2019, continued. This would be the requirement to enable a manufacturer to participate in both series with one race car.
Victory in the race went to Italian Ronnie Quintarelli, known to German fans from the SUPER GT guest appearance during the DTM season finale at Hockenheim. Together with his Japanese team-mate Tsugio Matsuda, he won with his Nissan NISMO GT-R, just ahead of Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy with the Lexus LC500 of the top team TOM’s. This allowed Hirakawa/Cassidy to seal the drivers’ title, only two points ahead of Matsuda/Quintarelli.