YOKOHAMA, Japan – Round 6 of the 2023 Super GT took place at Sportsland Sugo on Sep 17. The #23 Z finished second, the #1 Z fourth, the #24 Z fifth, and the #3 Z ninth, ensuring that all four cars secured valuable points. Now with two races to go in the series, the #3 Z still leads the championship, while the #23 Z has risen to third place.
The Nissan/NISMO team entered with a strong lineup featuring defending champions, the #1 MARELLI IMPUL Z (Kazuki Hiramine / Bertrand Baguette), series leader, the #3 Niterra MOTUL Z (Katsumasa Chiyo/Mitsunori Takaboshi), along with #23 MOTUL AUTECH Z (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli) and #24 REALISE CORPORATION ADVAN Z (Daiki Sasaki/Kohei Hirate).
The #3 Z, with a hefty 98 kg success weight, faced an uphill battle. In contrast, the #23 Z, #1 Z, and #24 Z carried success weights of 50 kg, 48 kg, and 10 kg, respectively, setting the stage for an exciting race as the Nissan Z GT500 squad aimed for a third win of the season.
The race began at 1:30 PM under overcast skies with a grandstand filled with eager spectators. Starting from 2nd, Quintarelli in the #23 Z held his position while Sasaki in the #24 Z and Chiyo in the #3 Z maintained their own in 7th and 8th, respectively. Meanwhile, Baguette in the #1 Z steadily advanced to 13th.
In lap 9 the #24 Z and #3 Z found themselves in a tight battle as they navigated through the GT300 class traffic, causing the #3 Z to slip to 11th momentarily. However, by lap 10, it had reclaimed 10th place.
Drama ensued on lap 39 when, at the final corner, a GT500 car crashed resulting in a race-stopping red flag due to the extensive damage. After an interruption of just under an hour, the race resumed at 3:20 PM with the Safety Car leading the field. The race restarted on lap 45 and by lap 52, after all GT500 class cars had completed their pit stops, the #23 Z was in 3rd, the #24 Z in 5th, the #3 Z in 7th, and the #1 Z in 8th.
In the race's closing stages, Matsuda in the #23 Z, positioned in 3rd place, maintained a gap of around one second with the leading car then on lap 78, it briefly surged ahead of the car in front on the straight after the final corner but was unable to complete a pass due to a strong defensive maneuver from its rival. Ultimately the #23 Z finished in third place.
The #1 Z, saw Hiramine rapidly climb up the order. By lap 51, the #1 Z had reached ninth place, and in an exhilarating display, made crucial overtakes on laps 53, 55, and 63, advancing to sixth. Eventually, on lap 67, the #1 Z overtook the #24 Z to secure fifth place, a remarkable climb from its 14th place start. The #24 Z had briefly held fourth place but experienced a late-race loss of pace, ultimately finishing sixth. The #3 Z hampered by its success weight still managed to finish in 10th place and gained one point.
After the race, a re-inspection led to the disqualification of the highest-finishing car and the rankings for all cars were adjusted.
In the GT300 class, five NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 cars competed, with the #10 PONOS GAINER GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Riki Okusa) started from 8th on the grid and finished in a 9th. All other five GT-Rs successfully completed the race.