At the start it was the D’Station Aston Martin had the local fans on their feet right from the start, igniting their excitement as Tomonobu Fuji made a bold push to the front on the opening lap. Fuji’s skill and determination were evident as he quickly built a useful gap, leaving the rest of the field trailing in his wake. As the first pit stop approached, Fuji handed over the reins to Satoshi Hoshino, hoping to maintain their lead. However, the No.54 AF Corse Ferrari, driven by Francesco Castellacci, began to loom threateningly in the second hour. Castellacci closed in on the Aston Martin, setting the stage for an intense battle as the third hour of the race unfolded.
The No.33 Corvette, piloted by Ben Keating, was also in the mix, engaging in tight battles with the Iron Dames Porsche, driven by Sarah Bovy. Bovy had initially run second in the first hour but was overtaken by Keating in the second hour, adding another layer of intrigue to the competition.
Meanwhile, the Northwest AMR Aston Martin, under the guidance of Ian James, made an impressive start and found themselves in the top six. Their strong performance continued, ultimately leading them to claim the fifth position, with Ian James completing a double stint and earning the cheers of the crowd.
Completing the top six was the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, with Takeshi Kimura running a double stint to kick off his home race. The race was turning into a thrilling showcase of skill and strategy, with each team pushing their limits to secure a podium finish.
The No.83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari, despite a first-corner spin by Luis Perez Companc, embarked on a fightback mission. Alessio Rovera took over at the first pit stop, determined to make up for lost ground and contribute to their team’s success.
In a surprising turn of events, the Iron Dames Porsche took the lead for the majority of the third and fourth hours, with Michelle Gatting at the wheel after Sarah Bovy’s stint. Rahel Frey then took over, successfully consolidating their lead over an ‘out of sequence’ fuel-saving Corvette.
However, the No.33 Corvette triggered an incident with the No.54 AF Corse Ferrari at the start of the third hour, resulting in a penalty for Ben Keating due to the contact. A 30-second stop/go penalty was handed to Corvette Racing, who had chosen to fuel save in the first stints. This setback caused the car to fall down the order, with Nicolas Varrone now at the helm, but they remained determined to fight their way back into contention.
Varrone faced a tense moment when he survived a massive lock-up while exiting the pits after their first scheduled stop. The pressure was mounting, and every move counted in this fiercely competitive race.
In the midst of all these developments, the No.86 GR Racing Porsche, with Riccardo Pera at the wheel, temporarily secured the second place spot as they attempted an alternative strategy. The No.77 Dempsey Racing Porsche ran fourth, ahead of the No.54 AF Corse Ferrari, the Kessel Racing Ferrari, and the Project 1-AO (Rexy) Porsche, all of them vying for their place on the podium.
As the race reached its midpoint, the early leaders, D’Station Aston Martin, found themselves in 10th place after losing ground in the mid-race phase. The competition remained fierce, and the local fans continued to rally behind their favorite teams, eagerly awaiting the dramatic twists and turns that lay ahead in this thrilling endurance race.
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