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Event Report

Kazunori Yamauchi marks Nurburgring 24 Hours debut with fourth place finish in SP8 class

Gran Turismo series producer Kazunori Yamauchi and the World Car Awards team drove off from their first appearance in the Nurburgring 24 Hours race with more than their share of success. In the 38th running of the classic endurance event, the newcomers guided their Lexus IS-F to a solid finish of 59th overall in a final spanning two days from Saturday 15 May to Sunday 16 May. This strong showing included an impressive fourth in the SP8 class, allowing them to finish the race amongst the prize-winners. (Team members shown in top photo from left to right: Kazunori Yamauchi, Peter Lyon, Owen Mildenhall, Hideshi Matsuda.)

In qualifying for the event in the two days prior, each team was fully at the mercy of a local climate known to provide day after day of deep wintry weather well into the month of May. This forced contestants to prepare their machines with remarkable haste. When the morning of the final rolled around, a thick fog blanketed the entire area. With all signs pointing to an especially gruelling race, conditions improved suddenly in the afternoon, as the sun emerged for the first time in a week. This allowed the final to kick off under a fresh blue sky.

The World Car Awards team set out to make the most of experience gained in last year’s VLN races, a series of four- hour endurance events held at the Nurburgring. Although plagued by mishaps including fuel-related trouble at the outset, brake problems in the middle of the race, and aero parts damage during the latter stages, precise pit work performed by a veteran squad of mechanics effectively minimised the impact of such malfunctions, enabling the team to successfully ride out the full 24 hours. Each driver managed to improve their times as the race went on, with all four continuing to reduce their fastest laps up until two hours before the finish line. Matsuda recorded the team’s quickest go-round at 9 minutes 46.343 seconds, while Yamauchi registered the second best time at 9 minutes 48.943 seconds.

The grand prize was fiercely contested by powerful entries from companies such as Porsche, Audi, and BMW, with the BMW M3 GT2 (#25 car, E1-XP class) manned by WTCC drivers overthrowing perennial winner Manthey Porsche to lift the crown. Japanese teams also put in a strong effort, as the Falken Motor Sports Fairlady Z (#44 car, SP7 class), GAZOO Racing Lexus LF-A (#50 car, SP8 class), and STI Subaru Impreza (#137 car, SP3T class) came in 12th, 18th, and 24th, respectively.

A full race report will be posted in the days ahead.