The finale of the 2019 Autobacs Super GT Championship is set for this Sunday at Twin Ring Motegi in the Haga District, Japan.
Japan’s premier racing series has seen twists and turns like no other this season, with the dominance of the Toyota powered Lexus LC500 and the fall from grace for defending champions Naoki Yamamoto and former Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button.
However, this season has seen a new set of stars rise to the top. Following a record-breaking back-to-back victory in Rounds 4 and 5, the LeMan’s Wako’s pairing of Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita sit comfortably at the top of the table with 70 points. Their closest rivals, Ryō Hirakawa and the recently crowned Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy in the KeePer TOM’s Lexus, hold 63 points.
For Cassidy and Hirokawa to claim the silverware, they not only need to win the race but hope that Oshima and Hirakawa place no higher than third. But with all Balance of Power removed for the final round, that is easier said than done, as the LeMan’s team has still had a dominant presence in the previous few rounds despite carrying over 100kg of performance ballast.
Can Cassidy win back to back championships in both Super Formula and Super GT? Or will the hyper-successful Team Wako’s stop him in his tracks?
Catch all the action this Sunday, live and free on the Motorsport.tv website on Sunday afternoon.
|Twin Ring Motegi – Tochigi Prefecture, Japan|
|Circuit Length||4.800km / 2.983 mi||Opened||1997|
|First Super GT Event||1997 (non-championship)||Direction||Clockwise|
The last time we visited Twin Ring Motegi was for round five of Super Formula earlier this year. It was at that race we saw Ryo Hirakawa take home the win, could we see his experience at the track come into play this weekend to help secure a win for himself and teammate Nick Cassidy?
Originally constructed as Honda facility built to showcase its products, Motegi is home to two circuits (hence the name): an oval circuit and a thrilling road circuit.
The road course is host to MotoGP’s headline international event each year, and also hosts Super Formula, Super Taikyu and used to host the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake – famous for triggering the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant – rendered the oval circuit unusable, with repairs unlikely to ever be completed.
The road course offers a starting section with a series of 90-degree turns, followed by a section of long sweeping corners and a dramatic straightaway as drivers race back towards the starting line.
|2019 AUTOBACS Super GT Motegi 250 Km – Provisional Schedule|
|Event Dates||02-03 November 2019||Free Practice Session 1
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 14:00-14:43||Qualifying Session 2||Sat 14:53-15:21|
|Warm-up Session||Sun 10:35-11:00||Race (53 laps)
All session times quoted in Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 9:00)
The reigning champion bows out
Defending Super GT champion Jenson Button has confirmed via Instagram that he will end his time in the category after Sunday’s race.
The news isn’t entirely unexpected following the birth of Button’s child and him shifting his focus towards his family. Button also appears quite regularly on Sky Sports F1 coverage. After winning the championship in his maiden season in Super GT, Team Kunimitsu have failed to defend their title, placing in eighth heading into the final round. We wish Jenson the best with wherever his journey takes him next.
The Championship Fight
Looking at the championship standings, the only combinations able to take home the championship on Sunday are the top two teams, Team Wako’s (Oshima/ Yamashita) and KeePer TOM’s (Cassidy/ Hirakawa).
If Team Wako’s were still being slowed down by the Balance of Power the race would seem like pretty easy pickings for KeePer TOM’s, however with all BoP being stripped for the final race, Oshima and Yamashita are in with a strong chance of taking home the win.
Yamashita and Oshima need to finish above Cassidy and Hirakawa to take home the title. Conversely, Cassidy and Hirakawa need to either win the race with Team Wako’s placing third or lower, or hope that Team Wako’s don’t finish the race.
A win for Cassidy on Sunday would mean that he and Naoki Yamamoto would be the first ever back-to-back double champions of Super Formula and Super GT; for Cassidy it would also grant him enough points on his FIA Super License to go racing in any series that he wishes.
If Yamashita and Oshima take home the championship this Sunday it would be a well-deserved win to say the least, after winning in Buriram and a spectacular victory at the Fuji 500, this season has been one that the team will remember for a long time.
Whoever wins this Sunday, there’s do doubt it will be yet another exciting race from The Land of the Rising Sun.
|2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS|
Image via Super GT
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