Ex-F1 driver Kovalainen wins Super GT title in Japan

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Former Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen has been crowned Super GT champion for the first time after winning the final race of the season in the GT500 class at Motegi on Sunday.

Kovalainen raced for Renault, McLaren, Caterham and Lotus during his time in F1, claiming one grand prix victory at Hungary in 2008.

The Finn made his final F1 start with Lotus in 2013, replacing the injured Kimi Raikkonen for two races, before moving over to Japan in 2015 to enter Super GT with Lexus Team SARD.

Kovalainen finished 13th in the final standings of his debut campaign, but mounted a title challenge in 2016 alongside teammate Kohei Hirate after a string of podium finishes.

The duo scored pole position for both races at Motegi, finishing second in race one before picking up their first victory together at the final round of the year, handing them the championship.

“This was an amazing weekend for us. I am grateful to the team and Lexus/Toyota for the wonderful car they prepared for us,” Kovalainen said.

“Of course, another big reason for our success was that Kohei [Hirate] won us the pole position. In the final stages of the race I was struggling a bit as the tire wore down, but I worked to keep them from deteriorating seriously in hopes of being able to pull away again at the very end.

“In the end, everything went according to our race strategy. I am very happy to have gotten this first win and the championship title at the same time.”