After all the drama and wheel-to-wheel action of the opening race of the Simsport Racing GT4 Season 3 at Monza, it was the turn of the mighty Suzuka circuit to take centre stage for a hotly contested Round 2.
With a number of drivers looking to get on terms with the Championship leaders even at this early stage of the season, others were hoping that the unpredictability of the reverse grid and the difficulty to overtake at Suzuka could present them with an opportunity to spoil the party and bag their best result of the season or maybe even battle it out for a place on the podium.
Despite the KTM dominance at Monza, which saw reigning Champ Stephen Haley and team-mate Aaron Walker fight it out for the win, all signs were pointing towards a difficult race ahead for the duo, with both drivers scraping into the top 20 during free practice around the famous Japanese track. This would have certainly perked up the hopes of a number of drivers and would be a real test of talent as the KTM duo would have to be at their best to get the very maximum out of their machinery and move through the field to pick up a good haul of points.
Another bumper grid of 36 cars all headed out for the formation lap, led by Tim Fullbrook on Pole Position, with Wilks joining him on the front row. Further down the grid, Reegan Mitchell would have certainly fancied his chances of taking the win as would Aiden Browe and Kieron Vidago, whilst Adam Isailovic, Haley and Walker were hoping to get a good start and make up a few positions as cars jostled about during the opening lap.
As the lights turned to green, it was Fullbrook who made a fantastic start leading away from Wilks with the two BMW’s of Wolff and de Baar going side to side into the first corner. As the field made their way through the opening esses, disaster struck for Championship leader and Monza victor Aaron Walker who found himself facing the wrong way, at the back of the field and unfortunately out of contention.
With cars battling throughout the field, race leader Fullbrook found himself under pressure from the marauding Karolis Sipavicius in the Porsche, doing a fine job to defend his lead for a number of laps as Reegan Mitchell smelled blood and got himself onto the back of the leading two, bringing himself into contention to battle for the win.
As an frantic, action-packed first ten minutes of the race drew to a close, Vidago and Wilks made contact on the exit of the final chicane, spinning both cars around, whilst at the front Sipavicius finally made it past the battling Fullbrook, taking the race lead in the process and looked to pull away from the pursuing pack.
Unfortunately for Fullbrook, he then lost out to both Mitchell and Rich Smith as he fell out of the podium places, whilst there was good progress through the field for Crossland and Isailovic, with the former in the mood to get into the hunt for the top 3. Stephen Haley in the KTM meanwhile, was doing a sterling job to fight his way into the top 10, as the race entered its second half with all to play for still.
The four car battle for second position raged on, with Crossland taking advantage of his speed and pace to take second away from Mitchell, who found himself in close company with a resurgent Fullbrook and Smith. As other battles continued, including a fantastic tustle for 19th between de Baar, Raddenbury and Pixsley, Sipavicius found his lead being cut rapidly by the impressive Crossland, seeing a four second lead disappear and under pressure for the first time since hitting the top.
With Sipavicius holding his position well and just less than five minutes left on the clock, an ambitious move for Crossland around the outside of the hairpin failed to materialise, with the Fordzilla driver finding himself running out of road and onto the grass, giving the leader some breathing space and Crossland leaving himself with some work to do to get back on his tail going into the closing stages.
As the clock ticked down and just two laps remaining, Crossland regained the time lost following his mistake at the hairpin and once again went bumper to bumper with Sipavicius who impressively kept a cool head amongst the flashing of headlights and intense pressure that was put upon him. With Crossland seemingly running out of time and track, the Fordzilla car got an excellent run out of the final chicane and on to the final straight. With Sipavicius’ exit compromised due to his defensive line, an epic drag race to line ensued, with Sipavicius just having enough track to bring home win by just a tenth of a second in what was a stunning photo finish, bringing an end to another intriguing and all-action race.
Tim Fullbrook picked up a deserved podium position ahead of Rich Smith, completing an all Porsche top 3, while Stephen Haley did well to bring his KTM home in 8th. After falling down the field early in the race, Aiden Browe recovered well to finish in 9th, while Haffendon, Hedges and Emery enjoyed a final l battle for reserve grid pole for Round 3, with Hedges ensuring he will start the race at Nurburgring in P1.
After two fantastic rounds, we next head to the Nurburgring for Round 3. Will the KTM return to the front? Will Stephen Haley get his Title defence back on track? Will we have a third different race winner? Make sure you tune in to find out, you won’t want to miss it!