From second on the grid, the drivers of the #23 Nissan GT-R passed the pole-winning #64 Nakajima Honda in the opening part of a frantic 52-lap contest punctuated by three safety car periods, and withstood a mid-race attack from the #100 Team Kunimitsu Honda.
It marks Quintarelli and Matsuda's first win since the 2018 spring Fuji race, and means the first three races of the 2020 season have been won by three different manufacturers.
Poleman Takuya Izawa maintained the lead at the start in the Nakajima Honda ahead of Quintarelli’s Nissan, but on the second lap the safety car was deployed after a crash for the Toyota Prius GT300 car of Hiroaki Nagai.
Once the race resumed on lap 5 of 52, Izawa built a lead of three seconds as Quintarelli fell back and was passed for second by Yuji Tachikawa’s Cerumo Toyota at the chicane.
Tachikawa made short work of Izawa’s lead and made an attempt to pass the Dunlop-shod Honda and the end of lap 11, but the pair made contact and Tachikawa cut across the chicane – giving back the advantage several corners later.
Izawa was able to hang on up front for several more laps, helped when Quintarelli took advantage of heavy traffic at the hairpin to repass Tachikawa, but on lap 15 Izawa was finally passed by both Quintarelli and Tachikawa – ironically – at Dunlop corner.
The #64 Honda then dropped more places as Kazuya Oshima’s Cerumo GR Supra, the NSX-GTs of Tadasuke Makino and Bertrand Baguette and Heikki Kovalainen in the SARD Toyota all made their way by at the Degner curves.
Quintarelli had been able to escape at the head of the field to the tune of nearly four seconds when the safety car was deployed a second time on lap 17, this time because of debris left in the middle of the track by Jann Mardenborough’s Kondo Racing Nissan.
In the meantime, a charging Makino had moved up to second after clearing both Oshima and an ailing Tachikawa, who would soon pit to retire the #38 GR Supra.
Action resumed on lap 23, with Makino pitting at the end of that tour and Quintarelli the next time round to hand over to respective teammates Naoki Yamamoto and Tsugio Matsuda.
Matsuda maintained the lead once the pitstops shook out but soon came under pressure from Yamamoto before the safety car was called yet again on lap 29 when the Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS of Shintaro Kawabata became beached in the gravel.
After the restart on lap 34, Matsuda was able to gradually pull away from Yamamoto to secure victory for himself and Quintarelli by a margin of 3.7s – although the gap between the cars had peaked at nearly 10 seconds in the closing stages.
Behind the leading pair, the SARD Toyota of Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama had jumped from sixth to third during the stops but Kovalainen’s hopes of a podium on his SUPER GT return were ruined by Nirei Fukuzumi hitting Nakayama at the hairpin.
The damage to the front of Fukuzumi’s ARTA NSX-GT was terminal but Nakayama was able to continue, only losing two positions.
That gifted the final podium spot to the points-leading #36 TOM’S GR Supra of Sacha Fenestraz and Yuhi Sekiguchi, who climbed from 12th on the grid to maintain their 100 percent podium record this season despite carrying a 60kg weight handicap.
Hiroki Otsu brought home the Nakajima Honda a strong fourth for the squad’s first points of the year, followed by the SARD Toyota and the second of the Nissans, the NDDP/B-Max Racing car shared by Katsumasa Chiyo and Kohei Hirate.
#64 Modulo NSX-GT
Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy came home seventh in the #37 TOM’S Supra and now trail their teammates in the #36 car in the standings by eight points, while Fuji winners Baguette and Koudai Tsuakoshi fell to eighth in the Real Racing Honda after a slow stop.
Completing the scorers were the surviving Cerumo Supra of Oshima and Sho Tsuboi and the Yokohama-shod Bandoh Supra of Yuji Kunimoto and Ritomo Miyata.
GT300: Gainer Nissan pair win wild encounter
Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda came out on top of a wild GT300 encounter at the wheel of their Dunlop-shod Gainer Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
#11 GAINER TANAX GT-R
The pair had been running sixth before the stops but quick pitwork from the Gainer crew vaulted them up to a net second behind the Team Mach Toyota 86 MC.
Hiranaka passed the Team Mach car – which later suffered a technical problem - at Spoon Curve before coming under pressure from the Kondo Nissan of Joao Paulo de Oliveira and the ARTA NSX GT3 of Toshiki Oyu, but managed to pull away in the closing stages.
De Oliveira’s Yokohama-shod Nissan lost pace in the closing stages and the Brazilian was hit from behind by Oyu at Degner, allowing the UpGarage Honda of Kosuke Matsuura and Takashi Kobayashi to sneak through and grab second.
While Oyu was forced to park his damaged NSX, it looked as if de Oliveira might have been able to hold on for the final podium spot.
But in the latter stages the Kondo car was passed by both the Fuji-winning Lotus Evora MC and the works Subaru BRZ in one fell swoop at Spoon before falling to ninth after being hit by the second Gainer Nissan of Keishi Ishikawa at the hairpin.
The pole-sitting #31 Toyota Prius PHV GR Sport led the early stages in the hands of Yuhki Nakayama but a slow stopped dropped he and Koki Saga back into the pack, the pair finally finishing seventh.
Hiranaka and Yasuda now lead the standings by four points ahead of Lotus pair Hiroki Katoh and Masataka Yanagida, while the erstwhile-leading Saitama Toyopet Toyota GR Supra GT300 slips to third after finishing out of the points in 12th.
GT500 race results:
|Impul Nissan||46||6 laps|
|ARTA Honda||36||16 laps|
|Cerumo Toyota||22||30 laps|
|Mugen Honda||4||48 laps|