2017 Super GT Series preview: 45 crews are ready for new season
Another great season of the sports car racing in the far East is in front of us. Forty-five crews announced their participation in the 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series, the premier Japanese sports car competition, which will start on April 9 at Okayama International Circuit.
This will be the 13th season under the name Super GT or 24th edition of the championship since the foundation of the Japanese Grand Touring Championship in 1993.
Eight races on seven race tracks
Same as the year before, the 2017 season features eight rounds at seven venues. All the locations are the same. After being canceled because of an earthquake, the Autopolis round is returning to the calendar. Buriram United Super GT race at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit remains the only race outside Japan.
This season will be historic because the famous Suzuka 1000 km race is included into a calendar for the last time. In 2018, it will be replaced by 10-hour race at Suzuka Circuit, reserved for GT3 and GT300 machinery.
2017 Super GT Series calendar
|1||April 8-9||Okayama GT 300 km||Okayama International Circuit|
|2||May 3-4||Fuji GT 500 km||Fuji Speedway|
|3||May 20-21||Autopolis GT 300 km||Autopolis|
|4||July 22-23||Sugo GT 300 km||Sportsland Sugo|
|5||August 5-6||Fuji GT 300 km||Fuji Speedway|
|6||August 26-27||Suzuka 1000 km||Suzuka Circuit|
|7||October 7-8||Buriram United Super GT race||Chang International Circuit, Thailand|
|8||November 11-12||Motegi GT 250 km||Twin Ring Motegi|
Fifteen GT500 and thirty GT300 cars on the grid
Forty-five cars are announced as full-time entries for the 2017 season – 15 in GT500 class and 30 in GT300 class. More than 90 drivers are on the entry list, with lots of changes in the line-ups.
Reigning GT500 champions Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate will drive the #1 Denso Kobelco SARD Lexus LC 500 for Lexus Team SARD. In the GT300 class, Takeshi Tsuchiya retired after winning his first title and he will focus on a role of the chief engineer for VivaC Team Tsuchiya. His championship-winning partner Takamitsu Matsui stayed with the team. His new co-driver in the #25 Toyota 86 MC would be Kenta Yamashita.
Significant changes on the GT500 grid
Nissan GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough, after spending one season in GT300 class, is progressing to GT500 class to drive Team Impul’s #12 Nissan GT-R. His partner will be Hironobu Yasuda. Brazilian driver Joao Paulo de Oliveira is moving from #12 Nissan to Kondo Racing’s #24 Nissan, to share a car with Daiki Sasaki.
Drago Modulo Honda Racing left the championship after two seasons. Honda will continue to run five teams, with revived Team Mugen replacing Drago Modulo on the grid. Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima will drive Motul Mugen’s #16 Honda NSX-GT. Another Honda team, the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri, promoted Takashi Kobayashi from GT300 to GT500 class, to share the #8 car with Tomoki Nojiri.
Porsche Supercup champion Sven Müller among rookies
In the GT300 class, there will be lots of rookies. One of them is the Porsche Supercup winner and Porsche factory driver Sven Müller, who joins D’Station Racing to drive the #33 Porsche 911 GT3 R. British driver Sean Walkinshaw is another rookie with lots of experience in other GT competitions. He will drive the #55 BMW M6 GT3 for Autobacs Racing Team Aguri.
Lexus replaced RC F with LC 500
Among the manufacturers, the biggest novelty is a completely new Lexus in the GT500 class. The RC F is replaced by LC 500. Six Lexus LC 500s would be on the grid. Honda will continue to run five NSX-GT cars while Nissan will have four GT-Rs in the GT500 class.
In the GT300, Bentley Continental GT3 will make its debut in Japan with the new EIcars Bentley TTO team. Brand new car on the grid would be Toyota Mark X based on the MC (mother chassis) platform. Other cars in the MC sub-class are Toyota 86, Subaru BRZ or Lotus Evora. Among GT3 machines, the most represented are Nissan GT-R GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 with four cars on the grid.
2017 Super GT Series entry list
|GT500||1||Lexus Team SARD||Lexus LC 500||Kohei Hirate, Heikki Kovalainen|
|6||Lexus Team LeMans Wako's||Lexus LC 500||Andrea Caldarelli, Kazuya Oshima|
|8||ARTA - Autobacs Racing Team Aguri||Honda NSX-GT||Tomoki Nojiri, Takashi Kobayashi|
|12||Team Impul||Nissan GT-R||Hironobu Yasuda, Jann Mardenborough|
|16||Team Mugen||Honda NSX-GT||Hideki Mutoh, Daisuke Nakajima|
|17||Keihin Real Racing||Honda NSX-GT||Koudai Tsukakoshi, Takashi Kogure|
|19||Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh||Lexus LC 500||Yuhi Sekiguchi, Yuji Kunimoto|
|23||NISMO||Nissan GT-R||Tsugio Matsuda, Ronnie Quintarelli|
|24||Kondo Racing||Nissan GT-R||Daiki Sasaki, Joao Paulo de Oliveira|
|36||Lexus Team au Tom's||Lexus LC 500||James Rossiter, Kazuki Nakajima, Daisuke Ito|
|37||Lexus Team KeePer Tom's||Lexus LC 500||Ryo Hirakawa, Nick Cassidy|
|38||Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo||Lexus LC 500||Hiroaki Ishiura, Yuji Tachikawa|
|46||MOLA||Nissan GT-R||Satoshi Motoyama, Katsumasa Chiyo|
|64||Nakajima Racing||Honda NSX-GT||Kosuke Matsuura, Bertrand Baguette|
|100||Team Kunimitsu||Honda NSX-GT||Naoki Yamamoto, Takuya Izawa|
|GT300||2||Cars Tokai Dream28||Lotus Evora MC||Kazuho Takahashi, Kiroki Katoh|
|3||NDDP Racing||Nissan GT-R GT3||Kazuki Hoshino, Mitsunori Takaboshi|
|4||Goodsmile Racing with Team Ukyo||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Nobuteru Taniguchi, Tatsuya Kataoka|
|5||Team Mach||Toyota 86 MC||Natsu Sakaguchi, Kiyoto Fujinami|
|7||BMW Team Studie||BMW M6 GT3||Jörg Müller, Seiji Ara|
|9||Pacific with Gulf Racing||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Jono Lester, Kyosuke Mineo|
|10||Gainer||Nissan GT-R GT3||Ryuichiro Tomita, Hiroki Yoshida|
|11||Gainer||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Katsuyuki Hiranaka, Björn Wirdheim|
|18||Team Upgarage with Bandoh||Toyota 86 MC||Yuhki Nakayama, Shintaro Kawabata|
|21||Audi Team Hitotsuyama||Audi R8 LMS||Richard Lyons, Masataka Yanagida|
|22||R'Qs Motor Sports||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3||Hisashi Wada, Masaki Jyonai|
|25||VivaC Team Tsuchiya||Toyota 86 MC||Takamitsu Matsui, Kenta Yamashita|
|26||Team TaIisan SARD||Audi R8 LMS||Shinnosuke Yamada, Jake Parsons|
|30||apr||Toyota Prius apr GT||Kota Sasaki, Hiroaki Nagai|
|31||apr||Toyota Prius apr GT||Koki Saga, Rintaro Kubo|
|33||D'Station Racing||Porsche 911 GT3 R||Tomonobu Fujii, Sven Müller|
|35||Panther Team Thailand||Toyota 86 MC||Nattavude Charoensukhawatana, Nattapong Horthongkum|
|48||Dijon Racing||Nissan GT-R GT3||Hiroshi Takamori, Masaki Tanaka|
|50||Inging & Arnage Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||Akihiro Tsuzuki, Morio Nitta|
|51||LM Corsa||Lexus RC F GT3||Yuichi Nakayama, Sho Tsuboi|
|52||Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave||Toyota Mark X MC||Taku Bamba, Shigekazu Wakisaka, Takayuki Hiranuma|
|55||ARTA - Autobacs Racing Team Aguri||BMW M6 GT3||Shinichi Takagi, Sean Walkinshaw|
|60||LM Corsa||Lexus RC F GT3||Akira Iida, Hiroki Yoshimoto|
|61||R&D Sport||Subaru BRZ||Takuto Iguchi, Hideki Yamauchi|
|65||K2 R&D Leon Racing||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Haruki Kurosawa, Naoya Gamou|
|87||JLOC||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||Kimiya Sato, Shinya Hosokawa|
|88||JLOC||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||Manabu Orido, Kazuki Hiramine|
|111||Rn-sports||Mercedes-AMG GT3||Keishi Ishikawa, Ryosei Yamashita, Masayuki Ueda|
|117||EIcars Bentley TTO||Bentley Continental GT3||Yuji Ide, Ryohei Sakaguchi|
|360||Tomei Sports||Nissan GT-R GT3||Yusaku Shibata, Takayuki Aoki, Atsushi Tanaka|