Super GT 2015 Final Round: Red Versus Blue

The most intense rivalry in Super GT's GT500 class this season has been between the red, black, and gray defending champion number 1 Motul Autech car and the blue long-time fan favorite number 12 Calsonic machine. The competition has been hard-fought at times culminating in a bit of bumping and banging on track at the last round in Autopolis. Because the two cars finished 1-2 there with the red Nismo car ahead of Team Impul's blue machine the championship battle was tight with only two points separating the championship leaders. Team Impul had the advantage but with the tiny margin it would all come down to one final fight at the last race in Motegi.
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Coming into this race there were theoretically six cars eligible to still win the GT500 title but with an 11 point gap back to the third place car from the leading pair the other four contenders could only win with luck on their side. Two Lexuses, another GT-R, and an NSX were the ones courting fate but for the Nismo and Impul cars their fate was in their own hands - or at least it seemed to be until the heavens opened up in qualifying.

A very wet qualifying session put the cat among the pigeons as the different contenders found conditions tough for getting a good time. Eventually the number 37 Keeper Tom's Lexus RC F got the pole but they were out of contention for the title as was the Epson NSX in second. The highest placed title contender was the number 100 Raybrig NSX, followed by the number 36 Petronas RC F. The championship leading Calsonic ended up in fifth while its main rival ended up in 12th. With such a huge gap the title seemed ripe for Joao Paulo De Olivera and Hironobu Yasuda to take from the defending champions Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli.

In GT300 the title had already been decided at Autopolis in favor of the number 10 Gainer Tainax GT-R driven by Andre Couto, but many teams still wanted to prove a point so the number 31 apr Prius fought hard for the pole.

On race day the rain continued early on but stopped just a few minutes before the race. The track was still soaking and everyone started on wet tires. The pole-winning Keeper Tom's Lexus led off and the top five was unchanged in the early running. At the back of GT500 though Quintarelli pulled off a massive charge and was up to seventh - just one place behind the Calsonic car - in a mere nine laps. He'd soon be in sixth because the Petronas car in that position - one of the championship hopefuls - suffered mechanical trouble and ground to a halt at the end of the pits. The car was in James Rossiter's hands at the time and he continued to have abysmal luck at Motegi as last year he got piled into by the Calsonic car. This year the blue car was staying out of trouble but it couldn't get past the cars ahead of it and its red rival was hot on its heels.

Meanwhile in GT300 the Prius had begun to amass a huge lead and the excitement instead was coming from the second place battle between two Mercedes - the Hatsune Miku car and the Gainer.

The track was drying up as the rain held off and in the ensuing pit stops to switch drivers and tires the Motul Autech GT-R took advantage of staying out a little longer and a faster pit stop to emerge ahead of everyone else and take the lead. And then a sudden safety car put everyone nose to tail for a fight to the finish. The number 46 Mola GT-R had miscalculated and hit one of the GT300 backmarkers and now everyone was bunched  up.

This was okay for the GT500-leading Nismo because they had just done their pit stop but the GT300 leader was caught on the back foot because the Prius had a huge lead and hadn't pitted yet.

After the safety car pulled in the battle was on with the number 1 car leading, the Keeper Tom's second, the Raybrig NSX in third and the Calsonic in fourth. Matsuda in the Motul car ended up in a fierce battle with the Lexus and at one time the Tom's car threatened to scupper the red car's title chances as an overambitious pass put it in the side of the GT-R. After some more jockeying the Lexus regained the lead but the Motul was still in second and ahead of the Calsonic car in fourth. The stage was set with almost a third of the race left for Yasuda to try and make a charge to take the title but he never seemed to have anything for the cars in front. In the end, they finished in that order and an emotional Matsuda took second place and a second straight title for Nismo.

In GT300 the Prius had pulled off a blinding charge and had blitzed back to the lead despite losing a lot of track position. The startling pace seemed to have no answer from everyone else but the Miku SLS put in a late effort to close within a second. It wasn't enough though and the Prius got the win which was bittersweet as this was probably the last race for that model because the engine supply for it has dried up.

And so after eight rounds the tile has been decided in favor of the red Motul Autech GT-R. In the process a record was set with Ronnie Quintarelli having the most GT500 titles for one driver at four. His co-driver earned another distinction this season in that Matsuda is now tied with fellow Nissan driver Satoshi Motoyama and Lexus driver Yuji Tachikawa for most career race wins in GT500. All three are multi-time champions and still active drivers so 2016 could see a new record set. With that said, if 2016 is anywhere near as good a season as this year, it'll be another classic - April can't come soon enough!

Congratulations to this year's winners and to Nissan!
This year's Nismo Festival on November 29 will have a lot to celebrate!

Here's a link to the Nismo TV telecast of the amazing finale to this season: