Felix Rosenqvist executed a commanding charge through the field to set up the first Super GT podium of his career in Sunday’s race at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, finishing in second place alongside Team LeMans colleague Kazuya Oshima.
Having been restricted to 11th on the grid after getting caught out by poor timing in a wet/dry qualifying session on Saturday, Rosenqvist was out to make amends as he slotted into his #6 Lexus LC500 for the opening stint of Sunday’s 66-lap race – and duly delivered retaliation.
Armed with blistering pace aboard his blue and red WAKO’S-sponsored machine, Swede Rosenqvist carved through the field in determined manner, charging his way past the likes of 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button to burst into podium contention.
By lap 27, he had caught the pole-sitting Honda NSX-GT of Hideki Mutoh, and quickly dispatched the Japanese for second place behind the leading fellow Lexus of Heikki Kovalainen.
Setting off after the leader, Rosenqvist slashed Kovalainen’s advantage from ten seconds to just two before making his compulsory pit stop to hand over to Oshima – who had topped the pre-race warm-up session – on lap 36.
Kovalainen pitted on the following tour, handing the #39 Lexus over to Kamui Kobayashi, who then re-joined just ahead of second-placed Oshima.
Kobayashi and Oshima then ran in close company for the rest of the race, with Yuhi Sekiguchi joining the battle in the later stages to make it a three-way Lexus scrap for the win.
Sekiguchi made it past Oshima and put Kobayashi under pressure for the lead, but his charge eventually saw him run out of fuel on the final lap, allowing Oshima to reclaim second.
That marked Team LeMans’ first Super GT podium of the season, the first of Rosenqvist’s career, and brought the #6 squad back into championship contention – now sitting just six points behind sole leader Kovalainen with half the campaign completed.
“A very, very good race for us and I’m thrilled to have made the podium in Super GT for the first time,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “We were really unlucky with the timing of our lap in qualifying and missed out on the window when the track was at its best, but we knew the pace was inherently strong. In the race we were really flying – easily the best race so far this season. Big thanks to Kazuya, Team LeMans and Lexus for a result we’ve got every reason to be proud about.”
The second half of the Super GT season begins at Fuji Speedway (Japan) on 4-5 August. Felix Rosenqvist’s most imminent up-coming event, however, is the Formula E finale in New York (USA) on July 14-15.
RESULTS (top five)
Race 4/8 | Buriram (Thailand)
1: H.Kovalainen (FIN)/K.Kobayashi (JPN), 66 laps
2: F.Rosenqvist (SWE)/K.Oshima (JPN), +2.860s
3: Y.Kunimoto (JPN)/K.Yamashita (JPN), +12.969s
4: Y.Tachikawa (JPN)/H.Ishiura (JPN), +38.836s
5: H.Mutoh (JPN)/D.Nakajima (JPN), +42.813s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 4/8 races
1: H.Kovalainen (FIN), 35 p.
2: N.Yamamoto (JPN)/J.Button (GBR), 32 p.
3: T.Matsuda (JPN)/R.Quintarelli (ITA), 31 p.
4: F.Rosenqvist (SWE)/K.Oshima (JPN), 29 p.
5: R.Hirakawa (JPN)/N.Cassidy (NLZ), 29 p.