Sasahara’s resurgence and frustration in Autopolis GT500 Race

Deloitte TOM'S GR Supra (

Deloitte TOM’S GR Supra (

Japanese driver Nobuharu Sasahara’s remarkable turnaround in performance and the challenges faced in the penultimate round of the 2023 GT500 season.

Nobuharu Sasahara, accompanied by team-mate Giuliano Alesi, embarked on the penultimate round of the 2023 GT500 season ranked last in the standings with just nine points from the opening six races. However, Sasahara’s performance in Autopolis proved to be a striking transformation. He began the weekend by setting the fastest time in practice and continued his impressive run in the first segment of qualifying. Even though Alesi secured the fifth-fastest time in Q2, Sasahara’s dominance persisted during the warm-up session.

The culmination of their efforts saw Sasahara and Alesi finish in seventh place. Sasahara highlighted the significant progress they made during the weekend, saying, “All weekend the car was strong. It’s a great sign for the future. I know it’s the penultimate round, but finally the car feels the way I want.” He revealed that they had been grappling with an issue with the car’s performance, particularly during pick-up starts, for several rounds. However, at Autopolis, the car seemed to have returned to its normal state, providing newfound competitiveness.

Nonetheless, Sasahara’s satisfaction was overshadowed by the frustration caused by two rapid full-course yellow (FCY) periods. The first FCY was triggered when a Yogibo Racing Honda GT300 car lost its front-left wheel, leaving Sasahara stranded just as he was about to pit. The second FCY occurred a lap later when the same car ground to a halt at Turn 1 after attempting to reach the pits. This unfortunate timing forced Sasahara to delay his first pit stop by two laps, resulting in significant lost time. He eventually pitted on lap 30 and later handed over the car to Alesi on lap 60.

Sasahara expressed his frustration regarding the FCY incidents, particularly the first one, and estimated that they lost 16 to 20 seconds, impacting their race strategy. Despite the setbacks, Sasahara believed they had the pace to contend for a podium finish, even if victory seemed elusive. Ultimately, they couldn’t outperform the dominant TOM’S machine of Sho Tsuboi and Ritomo Miyata, who clinched their second win of the season and took the lead in the standings heading into the final race in Motegi.

In summary, Sasahara’s resurgence in Autopolis showcased the potential of his team, but unfortunate FCY periods prevented them from achieving a higher podium finish. As the season nears its climax, they remain optimistic about their competitive prospects with a few minor issues to address.