KC Motorgroup Ltd. (KCMG) scored its best result of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge season at the Suzuka 10 Hours, finishing sixth during an intense battle for the overall podium at Nissan’s home event.
With the help of setting the fifth best time in Q1 and the sixth fastest in Q3, both Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 cars progressed to the top 20 pole shootout where double Formula Nippon and Super GT champion Tsugio Matsuda put the #35 machine 13th on the grid with FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 race winner Oliver Jarvis 17th on board the #018.
A stunning first lap from Alexandre Imperatori quickly put the two Nissans line astern as he jostled for 13th with Matsuda. After passing the sister Nissan, Imperatori handed over to 2016 GT Asia champion Edoardo Liberati while Blancpain Endurance Series champion Katsumasa Chiyo took the wheel from his countryman, with both cars knocking on the door of the top 10.
Chiyo got back on his team-mates’ tail after putting on a stunning move around the outside of the famous 130R corner, then getting ahead approaching the 90-minute mark. The two Nissans swapped positions again with Jarvis and Joshua Burdon driving before a safety car period for heavy contact at the hairpin during the third hour, under which the #35 Nissan opted not to pit to launch it into podium contention.
Once under green flag conditions again, both cars were running inside the top eight, which was consolidated after Imperatori attempted to one up Chiyo’s earlier overtake with a pass on the entry into the Esses section.
Unfortunately, the #018’s race would come undone when an issue with the front-left suspension hit, costing six laps to repair and dropping it out of the top 20 at the halfway mark. This was later compounded by an issue with the door, leaving it 23rd by the chequered flag.
Meanwhile, Matsuda was running in sixth after a second safety car took away the #35’s upper hand in strategy, but used the traffic to his advantage to sneak into fifth at the hairpin. Despite other competitors running well as the race unfolded, the Japanese driver put on another strong move on the outside of the first two corners in the final hour for sixth.
KCMG set the second and third best times en route to its third top 10 finish in the four races so far this season, and won the Asia Award for being the top car with at least two Asian drivers.
The final event of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign is the Kyalami 9 Hours on 21-23 November.
Joshua Burdon, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “It’s been a solid weekend for us, we fought hard all the way to finish sixth overall, picking up the Asian Award as well. We had the pace for a podium but some cards didn’t fall our way. Nevertheless, I’m proud of the squad and to represent Nissan with my two Japanese team-mates at their home event. I can’t wait for the final race in South Africa.”
Tsugio Matsuda, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “We had a great race, although it was a challenge towards the end I was able to overtake and keep some quick cars behind me. I’m happy for the team and thankful to KCMG for this weekend.”
Katsumasa Chiyo, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “I want to thank KCMG who did such a fantastic job all weekend. Nobody made a mistake, the strategy was great and my team-mates did some excellent driving. Sixth was not really what we wanted but it was good for us to be fighting on the lead lap for the podium and to take the Asia Award. I’ll be looking to Kyalami for a podium finish.”
Edoardo Liberati, #018 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “We were running strong and fighting for the podium when a technical issue forced us to lose six laps. This hurts quite a lot but I’m proud of the work we all have been doing together as a team. My thanks to everyone for this weekend and we hope for better at the season finale.”
Alexandre Imperatori, #018 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “All in all we’re a bit disappointed with the result. Finishing 23rd was a real shame because we were in podium contention until we had the suspension issue. What makes it a bitter pill to swallow is we had quite good pace. At least the sister car got a good result so congratulations to them. Now we will focus on Kyalami and do our best to end the season on a high.”
Oliver Jarvis, #018 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “Firstly I have to say what a fantastic event the Suzuka 10 Hours is. It was great to be part of it in 2018 but I think it’s even bigger and better this year. We had the speed to fight for the podium, the pace was very strong and it improved as the race progressed but a few minor issues meant we were out of contention early on. It’s such a shame for the team who had put in so much work into giving us a competitive car. We’re working even harder now to prepare for Kyalami. Thanks to KCMG for this weekend and I’m really pleased the sister car managed a top six finish, it’s a small reward for the effort we put in.”
Paul Ip, KCMG Founder: “We are very proud of our Suzuka 10 Hours performance, we put on a strong showing for Nissan at their home event. Although we feel we could have had at least one car on the podium, it was a closely fought battle and only minor issues prevented us from reaching that goal. We set the second and third fastest times of the race, so the pace was most certainly there. It was a shame that the #018 had some technical problems but nonetheless it was a good performance from the drivers and the #35 was also impressive with sixth. Now we must focus on the season finale, the Kyalami 9 Hours.”