Naoki Yamamoto is a Japanese racing driver who currently competes in two premier Japanese championships – Super Formula and Super GT, driving for Honda. He made a debut in both competitions back in 2010.
He has two Super Formula Championship titles on his account, winning the championship in 2013 and 2018. In Super GT Series, he won championship title in 2018, becoming only the fourth man in a history of Japanese motorsport to win both titles in the same year.
Naoki Yamamoto is a Honda factory driver
Formula 3 champion early in a career
Born in July 1988, he made his first appearances in karting races in 1994, staying in karting for the next twelve years. In 2006, he moved into the car racing through the Suzuka Circuit Racing School Formula, then participating in the Formula Japan Challenge series in 2007. He was pretty successful, finishing second in the points.
In 2008, he graduated to Japanese Formula 3 Championship with Honda, finishing fifth in the Championship class. In 2009, he captured his first championship title by winning the National class in Japanese Formula 3, driving a Dallara-Toyota for HFDP Racing.
Moving to premier championships in 2010
With championship trophy in his hands, it was a time for moving to Japanese premier competitions in 2010. Naoki joined Nakajima Racing to drive the #31 Swift-Honda in the Formula Nippon and Team Kunimitsu to drive the #100 Honda HSV-010 GT in GT500 class of Super GT Series, together with Takuya Izawa.
Over the season, his best SF result was the second place in the non-championship Fuji Sprint Cup. In the championship, he finished in the seventh place. In Super GT Series, he and Izawa scored two podiums, both at Suzuka, to finish eighth in the points.
Double programme with Team Kunimitsu and Team Mugen since 2011
In 2011, Yamamoto stayed with Team Kunimitsu in the Super GT Series and joined Team Mugen in the Formula Nippon. He is still driving for those two teams today.
He was without wins in both championships in the next two seasons, scoring three Super GT podiums over two years in the #100 Honda to finish 9th in the points in 2012 and 5th in the points in 2013. In Formula Nippon, he was driving the #16 Honda, not scoring wins or podiums to finish 11th in the points in both seasons.
Naoki Yamamoto - 2013 Super Formula champion
Super Formula champion in 2013
In 2013, Formula Nippon has been renamed to Super Formula Championship. Yamamoto stayed in Team Mugen's #16 Honda. He won the race from pole position at Suzuka Circuit and added four more podiums to his account, taking the championship title with the same amount of points as Andre Lotterer.
Yamamoto later proved that Suzuka Circuit suits him, winning two more times there in the following years, in 2015 and 2016, and finishing second in 2017. In that period, his best championship result was the fifth place in 2015.
Two Super GT seasons with Dome Racing
While fighting for Super Formula title in 2013, Yamamoto was driving the #18 Dome Racing Honda HSV-010 GT in the Super GT Series, sharing a car with Frederic Makowiecki. They won Suzuka 1000 and finished fourth in the championship.
Yamamoto stayed one more season in the #18 Honda NSX-GT, sharing a car with three different co-drivers (Jean-Karl Vernay, Frederic Makowiecki, Takuya Izawa). He and Makowiecki won at Fuji and Yamamoto finished fourth in the championship classification.
Naoki Yamamoto returned to the #100 Honda in 2015
Rejoining Team Kunimitsu in 2015
For the 2015 Super GT season, Yamamoto rejoined Team Kunimitsu to drive again the #100 Honda. He was sharing a car with Takuya Izawa. They won at Sportsland Sugo and finished third in the points. That remained the career-best result for Yamamoto in the Super GT Series.
In the following two seasons, he and Izawa stayed together in the #100 Honda, scoring no more wins, just three podiums.
Naoki Yamamoto in 2018 Super Formula
Double Japanese champion in 2018
In 2018, Yamamoto has a dreamy start of the Super Formula season, with two victories in the first two races at the wheel of Team Mugen's #16 Honda. In the season-opening race at Suzuka Circuit, he won from pole position, scoring his fourth Super Formula win at Suzuka. The next race at Autopolis was cancelled and then he won at Sportsland Sugo. The third win came in the season's finale at Suzuka and he clinched his second Super Formula title.
In the 2018 Super GT Series season, Naoki's co-driver in the #100 Honda NSX was a former F1 driver Jenson Button. They won one race during the season and added three more podiums, including the third place in the season's finale at Twin Ring Motegi which secured them a championship title. Yamamoto became only the fourth man in a history of Japanese motorsport to take both championship titles in the same year.
Naoki Yamamoto is celebrating 2018 Super GT title with Jenson Button and Kunimitsu Takahashi