Japanese drivers Hirobon and Yu Kanamaru finished second overall in Sunday’s GT World Challenge Asia race in Buriram, Thailand. Driving the #500 Nissan GT-R in the Silver-Am class, Hirobon and Kanamaru held off a handful of Pro-Am entries on their way to the stunning result.

By Steven Walton

The #500 TEAM 5ZIGEN Nissan lined up fourth for the start of Sunday’s one-hour race in Buriram.

Silver-ranked driver Kanamaru was in the car for the first stint, surrounded by Pro-Am entries with European factory drivers at the wheel.

“I think we had a great car in the beginning and we had a really good start,” Kanamaru told Asian Motorsport after the race. By the end of lap one, he had moved up to third.

“In the beginning we were ok, but towards the end [of the stint], our front tyres, rear tyres, both, were struggling with degradation quite a bit and then we couldn’t keep up with the guys in front,” Kanamaru said.

Still, during the race’s first half, Kanamaru was only passed by two other drivers: Patrick Pilet in the #4 Porsche, who went on to win the race, and Luca Stolz in the #888 Mercedes.

When Kanamaru pitted with about 25 minutes to go, he was still of several gold and platinum-rated drivers, including Ralf Aron, Marco Mapelli, Alessio Picariello, Jaxon Evans and Markus Winkelhock.

“You know these guys are factory drivers, I mean we have nothing to lose definitely, so I just had to give 120% of my power,” Kanamaru said of his stint.

After the Nissan pitted, bronze driver Hirobon emerged on the track in third overall, which quickly became second when the race-leading #30 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes was penalised for a short pitstop.

For the final 20 minutes, Hirobon successfully held off reigning GT World Challenge Asia champion, Anthony Liu, who settled for third place overall.

“He did a fantastic job finishing P2, it was amazing,” Kanamaru said of Hirobon’s driving, adding that this weekend was Hirobon’s first-ever time driving at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram.

The overall P2 finish also earned Kanamaru and Hirobon the Silver-Am class victory. The Japanese duo now sit second in the Silver-Am drivers’ standings, behind Origine Motorsport’s Yuan Bo and Leo Ye.

Kanamaru said his target this year was to win the Silver-Am drivers’ title.

He said he expected his Japanese team, TEAM 5ZIGEN, to be stronger in the coming rounds because they will be held in Japan.

The next three rounds of GT World Challenge Asia take place in Fuji, Suzuka and Okayama.

Header image credit: Macca/Asian Motorsport

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