The opening round of the 2007 SUPER GT series was held at Suzuka Circuit (5.807km/lap) in Mie prefecture on Sunday, March 18. The XANAVI NISMO Z (#23), with drivers Satoshi Motoyama and Richard Lyons, started from 7th place after qualifying, finishing successfully in 2nd place and on the podium. The MOTUL AUTECH Z (#22) with Michael Krumm and Tsugio Matsuda started from 9th and finished 5th, scoring valuable points. It was a very successful debut race for the new GT500-spec Nissan Z car running the normally aspirated (NA) V8 engine. A total of 30,000 spectators gathered at Suzuka Circuit to watch 41 cars start the 52-lap (300km) race at 2:00pm, which got underway in clear skies amidst very cold temperatures at 9 degrees Celsius.
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Ace NISMO driver Satoshi Motoyama started the race for the #23 Z, improving his position by one spot on the opening lap. After fending off a hard pursuit from the Lexus SC430 behind, the car retuned to the pits on lap 21, handing the wheel over to Richard Lyons. On lap 30, Lyons was in 5th, and with a car in front spinning out, improved to 4th on the following lap. Towards the end of the race, one of the NSX machines caught fire and stopped trackside. Shortly after, another NSX, which had been leading the race, slowed down suddenly. The #23 Z took the checkered flag in 2nd place.
Michael Krumm was the starter of the race for the #22 Z, and although he was pushed off track after being hit from behind on the first corner of the opening lap, he managed to recover, starting his pursuit from 14th place. During his stint, he moved up to 12th, returning to the pits on lap 24 where he handed over to Tsugio Matsuda. Matsuda had the car up to 8th place on lap 31, continuing his fierce pursuit until climbing to 6th. He eventually took the checkered flag in 5th place.
Following the podium presentation, Motoyama said: "After changing to the new engine, we really got the speed we deserve. It means a lot to be on the podium with the new car. I am very grateful to our fans who cheered for us in the cold weather." His teammate Richard Lyons added: "It was a very difficult race, but it's great that we finished 2nd. There's no doubt that NISMO is a great team and I would like to live up to what is expected."
Matsuda, who brought the #22 Z to the finish line, said: "Although we backed off in the beginning, I am very happy to be contributing to our 5th-place finish. At the end of the race, I pushed too hard to catch and pass the car in front after using too much of the tires. That got me in trouble when a car from behind started chasing me. But our car is very strong when it comes to not giving in." "I thought we were out of luck when I was pushed out in the beginning" said Krumm, "but I am so happy to be finishing 5th. It's unbelievable to be winning points after running off track."
The 2006-spec YellowHat YMS MobaHO! TOMICA Z (#3) of Sebastian Philippe and Masataka Yanagida finished in 10th place, while the CALSONIC IMPUL Z (#12), with Benoit Treluyer and Kazuki Hoshino at the wheel, took 11th. The WOODONE ADVAN Clarion Z (#24) of Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Seiji Ara got mixed up in the fracas of cars running off at the first corner of the opening lap. The car managed to get out of the mess, but slowed down on lap 7, stopping out on track.
NISMO Team Director Yoshitaka Iijima commented:
"I am happy with the result, it is a great success. We promised our fans we'd give them an exciting race, so I am happy with that as well. I told our drivers it would be a difficult race, but that we had to take up the challenge. To our team, I told them we should do a steady job and both groups did their jobs perfectly. The drivers pushed hard and improved their positions, and when they had to be on the defense, they did that well also. We were able to prove that the new car is a step in the right direction. Now we will work to improve speed and reliability. We thank our fans for their support and look forward to more in future."