Felix Rosenqvist and team-mate Kazuya Oshima endured a disappointing weekend of Super GT action at Sportsland SUGO, with a post-race penalty ultimately dropping the duo outside the points in round six of Japan’s top-tier racing championship.
While things got off to a promising start with fifth place in practice, they took a turn in the wrong direction in qualifying, where an untimely red flag ruined Rosenqvist’s new-tyre run and restricted the #6 Team LeMans Lexus to 11th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Once there, Rosenqvist took charge of the opening stint and kept his position in an undramatic first phase of the race. The Swede successfully fended off the advances of ex-F1 Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen, the duo running right behind fellow Lexus racer and erstwhile championship leader Nick Cassidy on a day when the Toyota-affiliated marque struggled with heavy performance weights and fuel flow restrictions.
An early pit stop saw Rosenqvist hand over the WAKO’S-sponsored Team LeMans car to Kazuya Oshima on lap 30 (of 81), the Japanese swiftly making his way past Honda’s Koudai Tsukakoshi.
A relatively static race came alive in the final 20 laps, with Oshima first moving past the #36 Lexus of Yuhi Sekiguchi for tenth and then taking ninth when Yuji Kunimoto ran into trouble in the #19 LC500 and retired. A late safety car deployment did not shake up the order, with Oshima thus bringing home the #6 in ninth place (as the second-best Lexus).
However, a post-race time penalty – handed out after Oshima tagged a lapped car on the last tour – eventually dropped the crew to 11th in the final results, outside the points.
“This was a difficult weekend for us, no doubt,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “The track didn’t suit us too well with the current levels of weight we’re carrying, so it was a case of doing the most of what we had. The rear tyres overheated very quickly.
“At least ninth would have given us some points, but unfortunately due to the penalty we lost that too. It was a misunderstanding between Kazuya and the lapped driver and I don’t really think a penalty was necessary, but it is what it is and we’ll respect the decision. Hopefully we’ll be in a more competitive position for the next one.”
Meanwhile up front, 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button claimed his first-ever Super GT victory alongside Honda team-mate Naoki Yamamoto.
Rosenqvist and Oshima now sit ninth in the Super GT standings with two rounds to go. The penultimate race takes place at Autopolis on October 20-21.
RESULTS (top five)
Race 6/8 | Sportsland SUGO
1: N.Yamamoto (JPN)/J.Button (GBR), 81 laps
2: T.Nojiri (JPN)/T.Izawa (JPN), +0.562s
3: D.Sasaki (JPN)/J.Mardenborough (GBR), +1.350s
4: H.Mutoh (JPN)/D.Nakajima (JPN), +1.693s
5: Y.Tachikawa (JPN)/H.Ishiura (JPN), +3.304s
11: F.Rosenqvist (SWE)/K.Oshima (JPN), +44.424s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 6/8 races
1: N.Yamamoto (JPN)/J.Button (GBR), 61 p.
2: T.Nojiri (JPN)/T.Izawa (JPN), 49 p.
3: R.Hirakawa (JPN)/N.Cassidy (NZL), 47 p.
4: Y.Sekiguchi (JPN), 40 p.
5: K.Tsukakoshi (JPN)/T.Kogure (JPN), 40 p.
9: F.Rosenqvist (SWE)/K.Oshima (JPN), 34 p.