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The Reignmakers: Super GT 2012 Champions

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Feb. 26 – Yokohama – Fog rolled over the Autopolis Super GT circuit in southern Japan, as an on-coming typhoon canceled practices and raised doubts about even holding the scheduled Sunday race.

Drivers Ronnie Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagida, the reigning champions, knew the weather and a back-of-grid position at the start would make any advance in the late September race difficult.

After the duo claimed the GT500 class title the previous year, Yanagida said early results for his MOLA team in 2012 were poor.

“Everyone in the team joined forces together to become champions in 2011,” he said.

“It became tougher the next season, because the competition tried even harder not to let the title go to the same guys.”

Indeed, no driving pair had ever repeated as champions. Quintarelli said that record looked to stand until a mid-season race in northern Japan.

“From Round 4 at Sugo, finally we could get the first podium of the season – a third position,” he said.

“Usually, a third position for a champion is not really a great result, but for us it was like to win and we were really happy. That was the turning point of the season.”

The following race at historic Suzuka earned the duo the first win of the season, moving the team back into title contention.

At the 300-km Autopolis, the seventh and penultimate race of the season, the fog lifted by noon, but still wet conditions made any advance hard to envision.

The S Road REITO MOLA GT-R had a daunting 10th pole position on the grid, with a Safety Car initially in front.

The Italian calmly  pushed the car to 7th, but by Lap 24 – as conditions worsened – MOLA decided to change drivers on the 4.7 km circuit.

Yanagida, pushing his Michelin tires to the limit, began a sustained charge as lap times shortened. The Japanese driver reached 5th by Lap 51, thundering to 2nd with seven laps to go.

Still, Honda’s  #32 EPSON HSV, running on Dunlop tires, remained in the lead, as driver Yuki Nakayama fought desperately for the car’s first victory of the season.

As Quintarelli watched his partner from pit lane, time – and the season – were winding down. On the 65th and final lap, his Japanese teammate did not disappoint – finding a narrow window to the checkered flag.

The win would give Yanagida and Quintarelli the title again, the first successive champions in the sport’s history. Looking ahead, the Italian says a three-peat championship this season with his partner, who now both drive for Nismo, was in sight.

“Honestly, I have Yanagida-san, the same teammate, the strong support of Nismo and still with Michelin, so I’m confident.”

GT500 Race Results 65 Laps
Pos No Machine Driver Time / Behind
1 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli 2:09’45.269
2 32 EPSON HSV-010 Ryo Michigami / Yuhki Nakayama 7.581
3 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 Seiji Ara / Andre Couto 31.747
4 24 D’station ADVAN GT-R Hironobu Yasuda / Bjorn Wirdheim 35.489
5 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 Juichi Wakisaka / Hiroaki Ishiura 1’45.603
6 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R Satoshi Motoyama / Michael Krumm 1’47.611
10 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R Tsugio Matsuda/JP.de Oliveira 1 Lap

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