The 2019 AUTOBACS Super GT Championship saw a bumper field travel across Japan and Thailand for eight action packed rounds of racing.
It was a record-breaking season all round. Team LeMans ended its title drought that had stretched back as far as 2002, while also becoming the first team in 15 years to claim back-to-back race wins.
It’s been a pretty good season for the Lexus-backed team. First came a drought-breaking win at Buriram, while the second was a spectacular display of strategy at Super GT’s premier endurance event, the Fuji 500. All this combined with some very ballsy driving in the final race at Motegi lead to LeMans Wakos taking home the championship. It was well deserved to say the least.
The 2019 Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy also had quite a good year with his teammate Ryo Hirakawa in their KeePer TOM’s LC500. Nagging two second place finishes, at Suzuka and Buriram respectively, and winning the final race earned them second place, only two points behind champions Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita.
However, it was a year to forget for the 2018 champions Naoki Yamamoto and Jenson Button. Despite winning last year’s championship, the unlikely match-up struggled to defend their championship this year. Their Honda NSX-GT (and everyone else’s for that matter) seemed to struggle with overheating issues throughout the season. The pair’s best finish was a second place at Fuji, but it was too little too late after four rounds outside of the points, they finished eighthth on the table. A disappointing result marks Button’s second and final season in Super GT, as he moves to focus on his family, and his newborn son, as well as his Sky F1 commitments.
Whilst Honda was struggling with cooling issues all year, Nissan were having several issues of their own. Having updated their cars to the 2018 Nismo GTR package, teams were disappointed with the performance all round, with Jann Mardenborough citing tyre pick-up as one of the biggest issues. This was most likely caused by the lower ride height the car used this season. The best a Nissan could yield were several second places at the start of the season by Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda. They finished third overall in the #23 Nismo GT-R.
With 2019 in the books, we look to 2020 and the introduction of the all new Class One rule set, which consolidates Super GT and DTM’s specifications. This means all new cars for all three manufacturers.
Toyota is using this as an opportunity to unleash its A90 Supra GT500 car upon the world, whilst the road-going variant is sparking quite a bit of controversy with its BMW powerplant, the race-car is pure Toyota, even sporting a NASCAR Camry inspired grill.
Honda is coming back with a bang, introducing a front engine NSX-GT to try and combat some of the cooling issues they were having this season. This marks the first time since 2013 that Honda has run a front-engine car in the series.
Lastly is Nissan, who will continue to the GTR for 2020 although a heavily revised version. Whilst maintaining the same powerplant, the new car will sport more aggressive aero, including new front canards, a new front splitter and a higher ride height, in order to try and fix the pickup issues this year’s cars faced.
Super GT returns in 2020 in April with the first race at Okayama. Next year’s calendar features two overseas races, one at Buriram and with a second being added at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. This omits the beloved Fuji 500 from the calendar in order to avoid a clash with the Olympics.
Be sure to check back next year for all the Japanese racing action, right here on MotorsportM8.
Images via Super GT