Tsukakoshi had been running third when the race turned to its head just after a late full course yellow period, with the two leading cars dropping out of contention in rapid succession due to unrelated reasons.
That put Tsukakoshi in the lead of the race and the 34-year-old was able to withstand intense pressure from Kenta Yamashita’s Rookie Racing Toyota to win SUPER GT’s sole endurance event of 2020.
Story of the race
The Real Racing squad had qualified down in 11th place in a grid of 15 GT500 cars, but became the favourite for an victory mid-race after an inspired decision to pit under the full-course yellow granted it the lead.
A spectacular middle stint by Bertrand Baguette where he stretched out an 11-second advantage only added to Real Racing’s chances, but a slow second pitstop brought the the ARTA Honda and the #36 TOM”S Toyota back into play.
ARTA driver Nirei Fukuzumi emerged in the lead of the race following the final round of pitstops but was unable to defend from Real Honda on cold tyres, dropping initially to second.
However, once his tyres were up to the temperature, the two drivers engaged in a thrilling duel and traded places for several laps, before Fukuzumi made the decisive move coming into the final corner on lap 87 of 110 to reclaim the lead.
A third FCY yellow of the race soon followed, deployed to recover the #31 apr Toyota Prius that had stopped on track with apparent technical issues.
When the race resumed Tsuboi couldn’t return to full power again and was forced to park the #37 Supra near the Coca Cola corner, seemingly granting Fukuzumi an easy run to the chequered flag.
But shortly afterwards the ARTA Honda driver was handed a drive through penalty for overtaking a car under the FCY, putting Tsukakoshi back in the lead of the race.
As the first of the GT500 runners to complete its second stop on lap 69, Real Racing was likely marginal on both fuel and tyres in the final stint, allowing Yamashita to close right on the tail of Tsukakoshi.
A wide moment at Turn 1 followed a tyre lock-up added to Yamashita’s chances, but Tsukakoshi never let the gap to close up enough to allow the 2019 champion to make a move.
On the final lap Yamashita fell into the clutches of a charging Ryo Hirakawa, allowing Tsukakoshi to escape up the road and score Real Racing’s first victory since last year’s Motegi event.
Yamashita held on to second in the Rookie Supra he shares with Kazuya Oshima, while Hirakawa completed the podium spots in the #37 TOM’S Supra he was driving with Sacha Fenestra’z stand-in Sena Sekgacuhi.
More to follow