Daisuke Ito is a Japanese racing driver who regularly competed in the Japanese GT championship (Super GT Series) from 1999 to 2017. His most successful season was 2007 when he was a champion, together with Ralph Firman driving a Honda NSX for Autobacs Racing Team Aguri. He was a vice-champion two more times, in 2005 and 2014.
He's also one of the most successful racers at Suzuka 1000, the greatest Japanese GT endurance race, winning three times and adding five more podiums.
Starting a career in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship
Born in November 1975, Daisuke Ito started his racing career in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 1996. He claimed his only F3 victory in 1997, finishing fifth in the championship.
Ito stayed in Formula 3 for two more seasons, scoring no wins in 1998 and 1999. The result which has to be mentioned is the third place at 1999 Macau Grand Prix, where he shared a podium with Britons Darren Manning and Jenson Button.
GT Championship debut in 1999 with BMW
While racing with Skill Speed's Dallara-Honda in the 1999 Formula 3 championship, Daisuke Ito made a debut in the Japanese GT Championship, driving the #21 BMW M3 for Hitotsuyama Racing in GT300 class.
His co-driver was Yasushi Hitotsuyama. The results were disappointing, with seventh place at Mine as the best performance, and they finished just 25th in the points.
First victory at Suzuka 1000 in 2000
For the 2000 JGTC season, Ito switched to premium GT500 class and joined Honda. He was driving the #64 Honda NSX for Mobil 1 Nakajima Racing, sharing a car with Dominik Schwager. He scored his maiden win in the third round at Sugo and then one more in season's finale at Suzuka. He finished fourth in the championship points.
Ito also clinched a victory in the greatest Japanese race, the Suzuka 1000, which wasn't a part of the championship. In that race, he was sharing the #18 Honda NSX with Juichi Wakisaka and Katsutomo Kaneishi.
Three more consecutive podiums at Suzuka 1000 from 2001 to 2003
In 2001, Ito moved to Team Kunimitsu to drive the #100 Honda NSX together with Akira Iida. Without wins or podiums, they finished 10th in the points. At Suzuka 1000, Ito was defending a victory in the #1 Honda NSX, finishing in the second place together with Ryo Michigami and Hidetoshi Mitsusada.
One more change of a team followed in 2002 when Ito joined Dome Mugen Project to drive the #16 Honda NSX. His partner was Dominik Schwager in four races and then Ryo Michigami in the other four races. They won a race at Mine and Ito finished fifth in the championship. At Suzuka 1000, Daisuke Ito was a runner-up for the second year in a row. His co-drivers were Michigami and Mitsusada.
Daisuke Ito stayed in the #16 Honda NSX in 2003 but his new co-driver was Tom Coronel. They were race winners at Twin Ring Motegi, finishing tenth in the championship. At Suzuka 1000, Ito reached his fourth consecutive podium, finishing in the second place together with Coronel.
One more victory at Suzuka 1000 with ARTA in 2004
For the 2004 GT Championship season, Ito joined Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) to drive the #8 Honda NSX. His new co-driver was Katsutomo Kaneishi. The first season with ARTA wasn't successful as they missed to scored wins or podiums, taking just 15th place in the championship.
However, the season has a victorious highlight at Suzuka Circuit where Ito scored his second victory in 1000 km race. He won the race in the #18 Honda NSX, sharing a car with Ryo Michigami and Sebastien Philippe.
Championship-winning partnership with Ralph Firman
In 2005, the partnership with Irish racer Ralph Firman started. They were sharing the #8 ARTA Honda NSX and finished second in the championship. They won one race, at Autopolis. At Suzuka 1000, they retired after an accident. In 2006, a duo in the #8 Honda scored one victory, at Sepang, to finish seventh in the championship.
Then, in 2007, the most successful season followed. Ito and Firman were the race winners three times, at Okayama, Sugo and Autopolis, taking the championship title with a huge advantage over the closest rivals. At Suzuka 1000 race, now a part of the championship, they were in the second place.
Moving to Toyota/Lexus in 2008
A defending champion sensationally moved to Toyota in 2008, joining Eneos Toyota Team LeMans to drive the #6 Lexus SC430. His new co-driver was Bjorn Wirdheim. In five races, Ito was on a podium once.
In 2008, he also made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving the #11 Dome S102-Judd for Dome Racing Team, together with Yuji Tachikawa and Tatsuya Kataoka. They were 33rd overall and 13th in LMP1 class.
First Super GT win with Lexus in 2012
In 2009, Ito and Wirdheim continued to share the #6 Lexus SC430. Without wins or podiums, they were 12th in the points. Two more winless seasons followed in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Ito and Wirdheim were fourth in the championship. In 2011, Ito was eleventh together with his new co-driver Kazuya Oshima.
Finally, in 2012, Ito claimed his first Super GT win in a Lexus. He and Kazuya Oshima won a race at Sportsland Sugo and finished tenth in the championship.
Super GT vice-champion in 2014
In 2013, Ito moved to the #37 Lexus SC430 of Lexus Team KeePer Tom's, sharing a car with Andrea Caldarelli. Scoring no wins, they were eighth in the points.
Next year, they started a season with a victory at Okayama. Later in the season, they were on a podium at Sugi and Motegi, finishing second in the championship, just two points behind Nissan's Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli.
Third Suzuka 1000 victory in 2015
In 2015, a new Lexus RC F was in use in GT500 class. Daisuke was sharing the #36 car with James Rossiter. The highlight of the season was their victory at Suzuka 1000, Ito's third in a career. They finished seventh in the championship standings.
In 2016, Ito's new partner in the #36 Lexus was Nick Cassidy. They were on a podium two times, finishing fifth in the points. One of those two podiums was at Suzuka 1000.
Retiring from full-time racing to be a team director
The season 2016 was Ito's last full-time season in a career. For the 2017 Super GT season, he was appointed as a team director of Lexus Team Tom's. He participated in just one race as a driver, replacing Kazuki Nakajima at Fuji due to Kazuki's FIA WEC commitments. Sharing the #36 Lexus LC500 with James Rossiter, he finished in the fifth place.
In 2018, Ito reactivated himself as a driver in the Blancpain GT Series Asia, participating in four rounds with ARN Racing's Ferrari 488 GT3.