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?

Jenson Button & Naoki Yamamoto, Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX Concept - 2018 Super GT Motegi

Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto will attempt to defend their Super GT title won in 2018.

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 Calendar

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
Date Event Circuit
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

GT500 Class

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
No. Team Car Drivers
1 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT Jenson Button
Naoki Yamamoto

3 NDDP Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo Frederic Makowiecki
Kohei Hirate

6 Lexus Team LeMans Wako’s Lexus LC 500 Kazuya Oshima
Kenta Yamashita

8 Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Honda NSX-GT Tomoki Nojiri
Takuya Izawa

12 Team Impul Nissan GT-R Nismo Daiki Sasaki
James Rossiter

16 Team Mugen Honda NSX-GT Hideki Mutoh
Daisuke Nakajima

17 Keihin Real Racing Honda NSX-GT Koudai Tsukakoshi
Bertrand Baguette

19 Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh Lexus LC 500 Yuji Kunimoto
Sho Tsuboi

23 NISMO Nissan GT-R Nismo Tsugio Matsuda
Ronnie Quintarelli

24 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo Mitsunori Takaboshi
Jann Mardenborough

36 Lexus Team au Tom’s Lexus LC 500 Yuhi Sekiguchi
Kazuki Nakajima

37 Lexus Team KeePer Tom’s Lexus LC 500 Ryō Hirakawa
Nick Cassidy

38 Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo Lexus LC 500 Hiroaki Ishiura
Yuji Tachikawa

39 Lexus Team SARD Lexus LC 500 Heikki Kovalainen
Yuichi Nakayama

64 Modulo Nakajima Racing Honda NSX-GT Narain Karthikeyan
Tadasuke Makino

GT300 Class

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
No. Team Car Drivers
2 Cars Tokai Dream28 Lotus Evora MC Kazuho Takahashi
Hiroki Itoh

4 Goodsmile Racing / Team UKYO Mercedes-AMG GT3 Nobuteru Taniguchi
Tatuya Kataoka

5 Team Mach Toyota 86 MC Natsu Sakaguchi
Yuya Hiraki

7 D’station Racing AMR Aston Martin Vantage JP de Oliveira
Tomonobu Fuji

9 Pacific Racing / Good Speed Porsche 911 GT3 R Naoki Yokomizo
Kyosuke Mineo

10 GAINER Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Kazuki Hoshino
Keishi Ishikawa

11 GAINER Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Katsuyuki Hiranaka
Hironobu Yasuda

18 Team UpGarage Honda NSX GT3 Evo Takashi Kobayashi
Kosuke Matsūra

21 Audi Team Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS Evo Richard Lyons
Ryuichiro Tomita

22 R’Qs Motor Sports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Masaki Jyonai
Hisashi Wada

25 Tsuchiya Engineering Toyota 86 MC Takamitsu Matsui
Kimiya Sato

30 apr Toyota Prius PHV GR Hiroaki Nagai
Manabu Orido

31 apr Toyota Prius PHV GR Koki Saga
Yuhki Nakayama

33 X Works Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Marchy Lee
Shaun Tong

34 Modulo Drago Corse Honda NSX GT3 Evo Ryo Michigami
Hiroki Otsu

35 Panther Arto Team Thailand Lexus RC F GT3 Nattapong Horthongkum
Sean Walkinshaw

48 NILLZ Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Masaki Tanaka
Taiyō Iida

50 Arnage Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Masaki Kano
Ryosei Yamashita

52 Saitama Toyopet Green Brave Toyota Mark X MC Hiroki Yoshida
Shigekazu Wakisaka

55 Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Honda NSX GT3 Evo Shinichi Takagi
Nirei Fukuzumi

56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Kazuki Hiramine
Sacha Fenestraz

60 LM Corsa / K-Tunes Racing Lexus RC F GT3 Hiroki Yoshimoto
Ritomo Miyata

61 R&D Sport Subaru BRZ R&D Sport Takuto Iguchi
Hideki Yamauchi

65 K2 R&D LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Haruki Kurosawa
Naoya Gamou

72 McLaren Customer Racing McLaren 720S GT3 TBA
87 JLOC Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Tsubasa Takahashi
André Couto

88 JLOC Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Takashi Kogure
Shogo Mitsuyama

96 LM Corsa / K-Tunes Racing Lexus RC F GT3 Sena Sakaguchi
Morio Nitta

360 Tomei Sports Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Atsushi Tanaka
Takayuki Aoki

720 McLaren Customer Racing McLaren 720S GT3 Seiji Ara
Álex Palou

Images via

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Keegan Bennett

Journalist - Japanese Motorsport at MotorsportM8

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