Walkinshaw races to first victory in sensational style

Sean Walkinshaw and Shinichi Takagi celebrate their success in Japan
Sean Walkinshaw and Shinichi Takagi celebrate their success in Japan

Sean Walkinshaw and Autobacs Racing Team Aguri team-mate Shinichi Takagi raced to a sensational first GT300 victory of the Super GT Championship season at Fuji Speedway in Japan on Sunday.

The duo produced a faultless, and utterly dominant, lights-to-flag performance which marked Chipping Norton-based Walkinshaw’s maiden win in ultra-competitive Super GT.

Takagi-san gave me a nice lead and I just had to control the gap to the Mercedes behind me

Sean Walkinshaw

The result also enabled the ARTA duo to leap from seventh in the GT300 championship into the top three, within just three points of second place in the standings.

A delighted Walkinshaw said: “My Sunday cruise was perfect. Takagi-san gave me a nice lead and I just had to control the gap to the Mercedes behind me.

“When he started closing down I was able to pull out a little bit more time. The car was perfect, it’s been a perfect weekend really.”

Walkinshaw and Takagi set the fastest time of all in GT300 practice, just under 0.3 seconds quicker than the closest challenger.

Takagi produced a superb qualifying lap of 1:37.525 seconds to secure his and Walkinshaw’s first pole start of the season in GT300. Notably, it was the Japanese driver’s 12th career pole position in Super GT.

Making a faultless start to Sunday’s race, Takagi led away at the front and steadily built a healthy advantage. By lap ten his lead was well over four seconds and almost nine seconds at one third race distance.

As the first driver change pit-stops began to be served around the halfway point, Takagi stayed out approaching two thirds distance when the lead was up to 37 seconds. Walkinshaw climbed aboard for his stint and after a clean pit-stop he joined the race in fourth position, the highest placed of those to have made their mandatory driver changes.

Running just over a second to the good over his closest challenger, Walkinshaw began to edge away and moved higher up the order.

With just over 20 laps to go, Walkinshaw was back into the podium placings and he soon moved up into second behind the second Syntium Evora car. When the Evora pitted, Walkinshaw moved back to the front and in the final ten laps his lead was an impressive five seconds.

Driving faultlessly, Walkinshaw went on to take the chequered flag comfortably clear and in the final classification he was actually credited a lap ahead due to his position on the track between the lead GT500 cars.