Karthikeyan wins Sunday’s sensational Dream Race at Fuji

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Narain Karthikeyan won the second Dream Race at Fuji Speedway, leading home the field after a breathlessly exciting, incident-strewn, Safety Car-punctuated finale to this weekend’s long-awaited SUPER GT x DTM tie-up.

The Indian driver quickly took control of the race, slipstreaming past pole-sitter Loïc Duval (Audi RS 5 DTM) at the start of the second lap and seeing off a lengthy challenge from the chasing cars of Naoki Yamamoto (RAYBRIG Honda NSX-GT), Koudai Tsukakoshi (KEIHIN Honda NSX-GT) and Daisuke Nakajima (MOTUL MUGEN Honda NSX-GT).

These four cars set the pace at the front until a number of Safety Car periods began to ramp up the pressure, finally causing a series of frantic, multi-car accidents that slimmed down the field and resulted in a nail-biting single-lap charge to the chequered flag.

Safety Cars raise the pressure

The first two Safety Car periods were called in order to clear debris resulting from left-rear punctures to Duval and René Rast (Audi RS 5 DTM) – possibly as a result of running a sub-optimal set-up following a lack of dry running this weekend, according to Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass.

At the second restart, two multiple-car accidents took out several SUPER GT runners, including frontrunners Tsukakoshi and Nakajima. A third Safety Car was then called out to clear the increasing amount of carbon-fibre debris left scattered across the racetrack, and to remove James Rossiter’s CALSONIC IMPUL Nissan GT-R, which had rolled to a halt at the first corner with heavy accident damage.

If Karthikeyan was able to successfully manage the pace at the front, it grew increasingly unruly behind him: on the very last lap, Duval and Wittmann scrapped mightily for second, switching positions several times.

The Frenchman only took runner-up spot on the chase to the finish line – but was then penalised one second for nudging Wittmann a couple of corners earlier. The top three was separated by just 0.935s, with the German earning second place – appropriately enough on his birthday.

Behind the top three, Yamamoto came home fourth from Kamui Kobayashi (BMW M4 DTM), who drove a hugely spirited race to fifth – on his debut weekend in a DTM car.

Qualifying: Duval goes from zero to hero

After his heartbreaking exit on Saturday before even taking the start, Duval triumphed during Sunday morning’s qualifying session, earning second but taking pole following a grid penalty for the fastest car.

Daisuke Nakajima had initially set the quickest lap, but a five-place penalty (for changing the monocoque following a massive practice shunt for team-mate Hideki Mutoh on Friday) meant the Japanese racer would start his final SUPER GT race from sixth. The 30-year-old announced his retirement today.