After qualifying a season-high fourth on Saturday, Mardenborough was running third and on course for at least a first podium finish in two years when the #24 Nissan GT-R he shares with Mitsunori Takaboshi got stuck in second gear.
Takaboshi had briefly led during his stint, passing Nirei Fukuzumi’s polesitting ARTA Honda on the opening lap only for Fukuzumi to repass shortly after an early safety car period, before coming in on lap 25 of 66 to hand over to Mardenborough.
Faster pitstops from several other cars put the Kondo car back down to fifth, but Mardenborough regained two positions and was closing on the TOM’S Toyota of Ryo Hirakawa in the fight for second before the misfortune struck.
“Mitsunori did a great stint, and I was on a different tyre compared to Mitsunori, to make sure it lasted,” Mardenborough recalled to Motorsport.com.
“The tyre felt consistent and when I passed [Naoki] Yamamoto [in the Kunimitsu Honda], I could keep the gap to the ARTA car [behind] constant, and I was catching the #37 [Hirakawa].
“It was going well until I couldn’t change gear anymore. We got stuck in second gear. I tried all the resets, manual shift, and nothing worked.
“When you’re doing 100km/h and everyone else is coming past you doing 300km/h, it’s pretty demotivating and…