The fuel error that cost Hirakawa the Super GT title

Jamie Klein
·2-min read

Hirakawa and his teammate in the #37 Toyota GR Supra, Kenta Yamashita, dominated the season finale at Fuji Speedway from pole position, putting Hirakawa in position to become SUPER GT’s first solo champion since Ryo Michigami in 2000.

That was despite the gap between Hirakawa and the Honda of Naoki Yamamoto narrowing rapidly in the final 15 or so laps of the 65-lap encounter, with Yamamoto reducing what had been a 15-second advantage to just two seconds in the closing stages.

Hirakawa had looked to have just done enough to hang on until he dramatically ran out of fuel exiting the last corner on the last lap, allowing Yamamoto through to clinch the title for himself and his Kunimitsu Honda teammate Tadasuke Makino.

#37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra

#37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra<span class="copyright">GTA</span>
#37 KeePer TOM’S GR SupraGTA

GTA

Yamashita had built up an 18-second advantage at the head of the field in his stint, pitting the #37 Toyota at the end of lap 23 - only one lap later than the start of the pit window, which opens at one-third distance.

On whether lap 23 seemed to be a safe time to bring Yamashita in, Saeda said: “Yeah, but the pit timing is too early from this result, this was also my mistake.”

The sister TOM’S car of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Sacha Fenestraz pitted one lap later, and had no problems making it to the end of the race in third place.

Asked whether the #36 car had any scares with its fuel, Fenestraz told Motorsport.com: “I think most cars were tight on fuel. Yuhi also had to save some fuel.

“I think the cold temperatures means the engine consumes more fuel, so maybe they were caught out by that because it was the first time [this season] it was so cold.

“It was unbelievable what happened at the last corner. Even though I’m not racing [in the #37], it was just a few hundred metres. It was heart-breaking to be honest.”