Bertrand Paget says the title “means everything”

Together with mate Kazuki HiramenBaggett finally secured the award that has eluded him since becoming a SUPER GT driver for the first time in 2014, with the Calsonic-Liveried Z drivers taking the title with second place in the Motegi Final on Sunday.

It is Nissan’s first title in the GT500 class since 2015, and the first for Kazuyoshi Hoshino’s legendary impul team since 1995.

For Paget, this achievement has been of added significance given the tighter travel restrictions in Japan due to the novel coronavirus, which means he has not been able to see his family in Belgium for most of the past two seasons, as travel has become easier at the beginning of this year.

“Since I came to Japan in 2014 it has always been the goal to win the title,” said Baggett, who joined Nissan after eight seasons of racing with rival brand Honda. “I won titles in one seat, in WEC, but since then I haven’t won anything.

“To finally win the title this year means a lot to me and my family, because I have to make a lot of sacrifices in that aspect as well.

“I have a wife and two sons in Belgium, and they see their dad away all the time…When I get back I can say to them, ‘Papa is a Super GT champ,’ and that means it all.”

Baggett started the race in third, and had to deal with the pressures of retaining the title Katsumasa Chiyo At NDDP Racing Nissan on the opening lap.

After Chiyo fell on the field with a penalty kick by calling him Tomoki NojiriThen Baggett finds himself, an Arta Honda, engaging in a duel with the car that took third place in the standings, the real Honda Racing of Nobuharu Matsushita cars.

But the Belgian was able to hold onto the position before handing it over to Hiramene, who was then able to hold his position behind the race-winning Kunimitsu Honda team all the way to the checkered flag.

“It was a very difficult day,” Baggett recalls. “The pressure was so high all weekend. I knew I couldn’t lose a spot in third place [NDDP Nissan]or to number 17 [Real Honda].

I tried to get past number 19 [Racing Project Bandoh of Yuji Kunimoto] At first because I knew I was going to be faster, but he was really aggressive in the third turn. I was really scared because I made my move, it moved under the braking and there was no way to get out of it.

“We called, luckily the car was fine. Then I got stuck behind him. I was faster than him but didn’t get another chance to beat him.”

“After the safety car, I had a lot of trouble picking up the tyres, my first lap [after the restart] It was very hard, it took a long time to clean the tires.

“I went a little too far in Turns 9 and 17 [Matsushita] He went at me. But I didn’t panic because I knew I was faster. He passed me at the hairpin and I passed him again in a straight line.

“The team did a great job again and then Kazuki did a great job – 40 laps with that pressure, no fouls, really good times, and we’re champions.”

Hiramin also claimed his first SUPER GT title in his third season as a Nissan GT500 driver and with Team Impul, admitting to shedding tears once he crossed the finish line to seal the title for himself and Baguette.

“I knew since yesterday I was going to have to run 40 laps, but it felt like a long time,” Hiramin said. “I’ve never known such a long forty laps!

“I knew the title contenders were coming from behind, but I also knew that if we stayed up front we would be the champions. I knew I just had to keep a strong mentality and fight to the end.

“I cried after I took the checkered flag… I’ve had some bad years in my career, and been able to see all the faces of those who helped me recover and get to this point. I am grateful to them.”

“It’s my third year since I joined the team and achieved our first Impul title for 27 years. I am very happy that I was able to do this with Baggett.”

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