Tsugio Matsuda is a Japanese racing driver who was a champion in both of Japanese premium racing series – Formula Nippon and Super GT Series.
Matsuda was the Formula Nippon champion two times, in 2007 and 2008, while driving for Team Impul. In the Super GT Series, he became a champion for the first time in 2014, driving a Nissan GT-R for Nismo team, and then he defended his title in 2015. His championship-winning partner was Ronnie Quintarelli.
Asia-Pacific karting champion
Tsugio Matsuda was born on June 18, 1979. As a teenager, he was successful in karting competitions, starting in 1993 and reaching a peak in 1996, when he was the Asia-Pacific champion. In 1998, Matsuda stepped in Japanese Formula 3, driving Dallara-Honda for Nakajima Racing.
Two seasons in the Japanese Formula 3
In his debut F3 season, Matsuda was a race winner one time to finish 4th in the points at the end of the season. In the same year, he also debuted in the Formula Nippon, driving for Nakajima Racing at Suzuka Circuit. Finishing sixth, he picked up one championship point.
In the 1999 Formula 3 season, Matsuda scored no wins but finished third in the final standings, still driving for Nakajima Racing. He was successful in the annual non-championship Macau Grand Prix, finishing in the fourth place.
2000 – first full season in Formula Nippon
In 2000, Matsuda graduated to Formula Nippon, becoming a full-time driver for PIAA Nakajima Racing. After scoring maiden podium (3rd place) in the second round at Motegi, he scored his maiden victory in the third round at Mine Circuit. Until the end of the season, he was on a podium two more times, finishing fourth in the points. His teammate Toranosuke Takagi was a champion and the team won Teams' championship.
In 2000, Matsuda also debuted in the All Japan Grand Touring Championship, driving a McLaren F1 GTR for Team Take One at TI Circuit, alongside Hideki Okada. They were fourth. Matsuda also joined Okada in the last two rounds of the championship.
2001 – full-time driver in both championships
The season 2001 was the first year when Matsuda competed as a full-time driver both in the Formula Nippon and All Japan GT Championship. In both competitions, he was driving for Nakajima Racing. Without wins, he finished 10th in the Formula Nippon classification.
In the GT championship, his co-driver in the #64 Honda NSX was Dominik Schwager. They won a race at Twin Ring Motegi and finished third at TI Circuit, ending a season in the 8th place.
Japanese GT vice-champion in 2002
In 2002, Matsuda continued to drive for Nakajima Racing in both championships. He and Ralph Firman were the winners three times in the #64 Honda NSX, finishing as championship runner-ups behind Akira Iida and Juichi Wakisaka, losing a title for just one point.
In the 2002 Formula Nippon, Matsuda was on a podium two times, finishing fifth in the final standings.
Joining Team Cerumo in 2003
For the 2003 Formula Nippon season, Matsuda joined Team Cerumo to drive the #11 Lola-Mugen. Without podiums, he finished 11th in the points. Matsuda spent one more season with Team Cerumo, finishing ninth in the standings in 2004.
Another change followed in 2005 Formula Nippon season when Matsuda was driving for Team 5Zigen, finishing fifth in the final classification.
Matsuda stayed with Nakajima Racing until 2005
In the same period, he stayed with Nakajima Racing in the GT championship. In 2003, Matsuda was 11th in the points. His teammates were Takashi Kogure and Andre Lotterer. In 2004, Matsuda and Andre Lotterer won one race with Honda NSX to finish 8th in the championship. The season 2005 was the last with Nakajima Racing. Lotterer and Matsuda were partners again, finishing in the ninth place.
Combining Toyota and Nissan since 2006
A big change happened in 2006 when Matsuda left Honda to join Toyota's Team Impul in the Formula Nippon and Nismo in the GT championship. In his debut season with Toyota, Matsuda scored one victory and six podiums to finish second in the Formula Nippon standings, behind his teammate Benoit Treluyer.
In the Super GT Series, Matsuda was driving the #23 Nissan Fairlady Z alongside Satoshi Motoyama. After two podiums, they were winners in the penultimate round at Autopolis, finishing sixth in the points.
Formula Nippon champion two times in a row
In 2007, Matsuda became the Formula Nippon champion, scoring four podiums in the #2 Lola-Toyota. He scored no wins but at the end of the season, he had one point more than his teammate Benoit Treluyer.
Completely different season followed in 2008. Matsuda was a dominant driver in the #1 Lola-Toyota, winning five races and adding two more podiums for his back-to-back championship title.
Switching to Nissan GT-R since 2008
While winning Formula Nippon titles with Toyota, Matsuda continued to drive for Nissan in the Super GT Series. In 2007, he spent one more season in Nismo's Nissan Fairlady Z, sharing a car with Michael Krumm. They were fifth in the points.
In 2008, Nissan introduced new GT-R race car. Matsuda was driving the #12 car for Team Impul, sharing a car with Sebastien Philippe. With two wins, he finished fifth in the points.
Racing single-seaters until 2013
After two championship-winning seasons in the Formula Nippon, Matsuda participated in four more seasons in the Japanese premier single-seater championship. He was driving for Team Impul in 2009, for Kondo Racing in 2010, then skipped the championship in 2011 and returned to Team Impul for 2012 and 2013. In those four seasons, he scored no wins and reached a podium two times, finishing best in the 6th place in 2013.
Five more seasons in Team Impul's GT-R
After starting to race Team Impul's Nissan GT-R in 2008, Matsuda spent five more seasons with the team in the same car. His best season's finish was fourth place in 2012 when he was sharing the #12 car with Joao Paulo de Oliveira, who was his co-driver from 2011 to 2013. Matsuda's other co-drivers were Sebastien Philippe (2009) and Ronnie Quintarelli (2010).
Double Super GT champion with Nissan GT-R
In 2014, Matsuda reunited with Ronnie Quintarelli in the #23 Nismo Nissan GT-R. The Japanese-Italian pair scored two wins (Autopolis, Motegi) and two more podiums to win the championship with a just two-point advantage over Lexus pair Andrea Caldarelli/Daisuke Ito.
In 2015, Matsuda and Quintarelli were the race winners two times in the #1 Nissan GT-R, taking another championship title. They stayed together in the #1 Nissan for 2016, finishing third in the championship. They were again among the front-runners in 2017, finishing second in the championship. In 2018, the pair was racing again in the #23 Nissan GT-R, scoring one victory to finish 8th in the points.
Two unsuccessful Le Mans attempt
While racing with single-seaters and GT cars, Matsuda recorded several participations with Le Mans Prototypes, including two attempts at 24 hours of Le Mans. In 2013, Matsuda joined KCMG to drive Morgan LMP2 in one round of the Asian Le Mans Series and one round of FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2014, he was driving KCMG's Oreca in two FIA WEC races, scoring LMP2 class win at Circuit of the Americas.
In 2015, Matsuda was a part of Nissan Le Mans project, driving the #21 Nissan GT-R LM Nismo at 24 hours of Le Mans. He was sharing a car with Lucas Ordonez and Mark Shulzhitskiy, retiring after 115 laps. In 2016, Matsuda returned to Le Mans and rejoin KCMG, driving the #47 Oreca-Nissan along with Richard Bradley and Matthew Howson. They retired after 116 laps.