The 2019 season of Japan’s SUPER GT series is due to get underway this weekend at Okayama, here’s why you should be watching, and a little background to get you up to speed.
What is it?
Super GT is the top level of sports car racing in Japan. Run by the GT Association it serves as the replacement for both the Group C and Group A touring car championships that ran in Japan pre 1993. Super GT places strict restrictions of car development, in order to promote greater competition amongst teams, and results in an incredibly varied grid each season.
With cars racing in GT300 and GT500 classes at the same time, races are often difficult to follow, but this combination results in very exciting racing, with lots of bumper to bumper, action packed racing.
Whilst the GT500 cars, being more expensive to produce, lay home to Japanese racing staples, such as NISMO, Mugen and Impul, the GT300 class is the place to see smaller race teams and a wider variety of both local Japanese cars and imported European GT3 cars, such as the Good Smile Racing AMG GT3 and the MANEPA Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Inclusion of the above European models, as well as other oddities such as a McLaren 720s GT3 and a handful of Toyota Prius GT’s is possible due to the lower cost to produce, and the striking similarities that the GT300 class has with the European GT3 class.
What should you watch?
Excitement of the races comes from the fact that GT500 and GT300 run at the same time, resulting in constant action as the slower GT300 cars are overtaken almost every lap.
Additionally, cars like the Goodsmile Racing Hatsune Miku AMG provide that edge of Japanese quirkiness that regular touring car championships have always needed.
The Mother Chassis cars are an inclusion by the GT Association to promote smaller teams to compete at the same level as major manufacturers. By sharing the same basic monocoque chassis and engine, Mother Chassis cars (abbreviated as MC) reduce the cost of entry significantly and promote smaller Japanese manufacturing firms to compete in the GT300 series.
In what other series can you see a Toyota Prius race a Lamborghini?
2019 Rules & Regulations
The focus of Super GT has always been strictly controlling the output of the cars in order to maintain a competitive field. Several rules in this category include restrictions of maximum power output, maximum downforce, maximum air intake, and more.
More interesting rules include one where cars that win a race are loaded with a 100kg ballast for the next race to make it harder for them to win twice in a row. This prevents a single driver winning every race in the season (take notes F1).
This year will see the alignment of GT500’s technical regulations with that of the DTM. This allows cars from either series to compete in either championship.
To celebrate this partnership and the creation of the new ‘CLASS 1’ ruleset, one GT500 car from each major manufacturer, Honda, Toyota (Lexus) and Nissan will race in the final round of the DTM this year.
The 2019 season of AUTOBACS SUPER GT will include 8 rounds, with the first starting at Okayama International this weekend, April 13-14.
|2019 AUTOBACS Super GT Series – Season Calendar|
|13-14 APR||Okayama GT 300 km||Okayama International Circuit|
|03-04 MAY||Fuji GT 500 km||Fuji Speedway|
|25-26 MAY||Suzuka GT 300 km||Suzuka Circuit|
|29-30 JUN||Buriram United Super GT Race 300 km||Chang International Circuit|
|03-04 AUG||Fuji GT 500 miles||Fuji Speedway|
|07-08 SEP||Autopolis GT 300 km||Autopolis|
|21-22 SEP||Sugo GT 300 km||Sportsland SUGO|
|02-03 NOV||Motegi GT 250 km||Twin Ring Motegi|
Drivers, Teams & Machines
This year’s GT500 class entrants include 15 entries running a combined total of 30 drivers, with two drivers per car at every race. There are three different manufacturers: Honda, with its NSX-GT car, Nissan with its GTR (both the 2015 and 2018 models are used) and Toyota (Lexus) with its LC500 car.
Drivers to watch out for in the GT500 class include 2018 Champions Naoki Yamamoto and Jenson Button in their RAYBRIG NSX-GT racing for Team Kunimitsu, and Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita in their WAKO’s 4RC LC500 car racing for Lexus Team LeMans Wako’s – they garnered the fastest time at Fuji Speedway in pre-season testing for the 2019 season.
|2019 AUTOBACS Super GT – GT500 Class Entry List|
|1||Team Kunimitsu||Honda NSX-GT||Jenson Button
|3||NDDP Racing||Nissan GT-R Nismo||Frederic Makowiecki
|6||Lexus Team LeMans Wako’s||Lexus LC 500||Kazuya Oshima
|8||Autobacs Racing Team Aguri||Honda NSX-GT||Tomoki Nojiri
|12||Team Impul||Nissan GT-R Nismo||Daiki Sasaki
|16||Team Mugen||Honda NSX-GT||Hideki Mutoh
|17||Keihin Real Racing||Honda NSX-GT||Koudai Tsukakoshi
|19||Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh||Lexus LC 500||Yuji Kunimoto
|23||NISMO||Nissan GT-R Nismo||Tsugio Matsuda
|24||Kondo Racing||Nissan GT-R Nismo||Mitsunori Takaboshi
|36||Lexus Team au Tom’s||Lexus LC 500||Yuhi Sekiguchi
|37||Lexus Team KeePer Tom’s||Lexus LC 500||Ryō Hirakawa
|38||Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo||Lexus LC 500||Hiroaki Ishiura
|39||Lexus Team SARD||Lexus LC 500||Heikki Kovalainen
|64||Modulo Nakajima Racing||Honda NSX-GT||Narain Karthikeyan
This year’s GT300 class entrants feature 29 teams with a total of 58 drivers, with and fourteen cars from thirteen Manufacturers. With cars from both Japan – several utilizing the series’ Mother Chassis specification – and cars from Europe, this class is incredibly varied and will produce some interesting racing.
Driver combinations to watch include 2018 champions Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou in their K2 R&D Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 car, and Takayuki Aoki and Atsushi Tanaka in their new Tomei Sports Nissan GT-R GT3 (2018), who obtained the fastest time in pre-season practice at Fuji Speedway. On looks alone, the Goodsmile Racing Hatsune Miku Mercedes AMG GT3, which has a giant anime character emblazoned on the bonnet, is also worth supporting.
|2019 AUTOBACS Super GT – GT300 Class Entry List|
|2||Cars Tokai Dream28||Lotus Evora MC||Kazuho Takahashi
|4||Goodsmile Racing / Team UKYO||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Nobuteru Taniguchi
|5||Team Mach||Toyota 86 MC||Natsu Sakaguchi
|7||D’station Racing AMR||Aston Martin Vantage||JP de Oliveira
|9||Pacific Racing / Good Speed||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Naoki Yokomizo
|10||GAINER||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Kazuki Hoshino
|11||GAINER||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Katsuyuki Hiranaka
|18||Team UpGarage||Honda NSX GT3 Evo||Takashi Kobayashi
|21||Audi Team Hitotsuyama||Audi R8 LMS Evo||Richard Lyons
|22||R’Qs Motor Sports||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Masaki Jyonai
|25||Tsuchiya Engineering||Toyota 86 MC||Takamitsu Matsui
|30||apr||Toyota Prius PHV GR||Hiroaki Nagai
|31||apr||Toyota Prius PHV GR||Koki Saga
|33||X Works||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Marchy Lee
|34||Modulo Drago Corse||Honda NSX GT3 Evo||Ryo Michigami
|35||Panther Arto Team Thailand||Lexus RC F GT3||Nattapong Horthongkum
|48||NILLZ Racing||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Masaki Tanaka
|50||Arnage Racing||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Masaki Kano
|52||Saitama Toyopet Green Brave||Toyota Mark X MC||Hiroki Yoshida
|55||Autobacs Racing Team Aguri||Honda NSX GT3 Evo||Shinichi Takagi
|56||Kondo Racing||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Kazuki Hiramine
|60||LM Corsa / K-Tunes Racing||Lexus RC F GT3||Hiroki Yoshimoto
|61||R&D Sport||Subaru BRZ R&D Sport||Takuto Iguchi
|65||K2 R&D LEON Racing||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Haruki Kurosawa
|72||McLaren Customer Racing||McLaren 720S GT3||TBA|
|87||JLOC||Lamborghini Huracán GT3||Tsubasa Takahashi
|88||JLOC||Lamborghini Huracán GT3||Takashi Kogure
|96||LM Corsa / K-Tunes Racing||Lexus RC F GT3||Sena Sakaguchi
|360||Tomei Sports||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||Atsushi Tanaka
|720||McLaren Customer Racing||McLaren 720S GT3||Seiji Ara