Masataka Yanagida is a Japanese racing driver who achieved the most in sports car racing, winning four championship titles in the Japanese GT Championship or Super GT Series.
He was the GT300 class champion two times with Hasemi Motorsport, in 2003 and 2010, and then two times the GT500 class championship with Mola Nissan GT-R in 2011 and 2012.
Masataka Yanagida spent the most of his career with Nissan
Starting a racing career in France
Born in June 1979 in Tokyo, as a son of a racing driver Haruhito Yanagida, Masataka started his racing career in 1973 in karting competitions and then switched to car racing in 1997 in France, participating in the Formula Renault Campus.
Next, he entered the French Formula Renault Championship in 1998, not scoring wins or podiums in twenty races and finishing 23rd in the points.
Formula 3 and GT racing debut in 2001
In 1999, Yanagida returned to Japan to race in the Formula Dream, staying for two seasons in the series. In 2001, Yanagida had a double programme in the Japanese Formula 3 and Japanese GT Championship.
In Formula 3, he was driving Dallara-Honda for Toda Racing, finishing seventh in the points. In his GT racing rookie year, he was sharing the #3 Hasemi Motorsport Nissan Silvia with Yuji Ide, finishing fourth in GT300 class standings.
First championship title in 2003
In 2002, Yanagida stayed in GT racing only, continuing to race in the #3 Nissan Silvia and scoring his maiden victory in the third round at Sportsland Sugo. His co-driver was Tetsuya Yamano and they finished third in the final classification.
For the 2003 GT Championship season, the team, switched to Nissan Fairlady Z in GT300 class. Sharing the #3 car with Mitsuhiro Kinoshita, Yanagida captured his first championship title in a career. He scored no wins but reached three podiums.
Yanagida spent one more season in a Nissan Fairlady Z, driving the #81 car for Team Daishin. His co-driver was Naofumi Omoto. He was on a podium once, finishing seventh in the points. In 2004, Yanagida also spent a season with Three Bond Racing in the Japanese Formula 3.
Yanagida's championship-winning car in 2003
Switching to GT500 class in 2005
In 2005, Japanese GT Championship changed a name to Super GT Series. Yanagida also made a change, switching to GT500 class. He was driving the #22 Nissan Fairlady Z for Nismo, sharing a car with Michael Krumm. With two podiums, they were fifth in the points.
In 2006, Yanagida had a double programme with Kondo Racing, driving for the team both in the Super GT Series and Formula Nippon, but without notable results. In 2007, Yanagida repeated a double programme but with Kondo Racing in the Formula Nippon and with Hasemi Motorsport in the Super GT Series.
In 2008, he raced in Super GT Series only, scoring two podiums in the #22 Nismo Nissan GT-R, sharing a car with Michael Krumm.
Kazuki Hoshino and Masataka Yanagida in 2010
Return to GT300 class in 2009, championship title in 2010
For the 2009 Super GT season, Yanagida returned to GT300 class, driving the #46 Nissan Fairlady Z for Mola. He and Kazuki Hoshino won the Suzuka 1000 race, finishing seventh in the points.
In 2010, Yanagida rejoined Hasemi Motorsport in the #3 Nissan Fairlady Z, retaining Kazuki Hoshino as his teammate. They were on a podium three times, including a victory at season's finale at Motegi. They won GT300 title with a nine-point advantage over closest rivals.
Masataka Yanagida and Ronnie Quintarelli
Two consecutive GT500 titles with Mola
As a freshly crowned GT300 champion, Yanagida entered GT500 class again in 2011, driving the #46 Nissan GT-R for Mola. He and Ronnie Quintarelli won a race at Sportsland Sugo and added four more podiums to win a championship title in the premium class.
In 2012, Yanagida and Quintarelli were sharing the #1 Nissan GT-R, scoring two wins and taking the back-to-back championship title. They won Suzuka 1000 and Autopolis 300.
Two wins at Sepang's endurance race
Outside Super GT Series in 2011, Yanagida made a guest appearance in the World Touring Car Championship, driving a BMW 320si for Wiechers Sport in the Japanese round at Okayama.
In the same year, he also scored an overall victory at Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (today Sepang 12 Hours) in Petronas Syntium 's Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. He was sharing a car with Nobuteru Taniguchi and Dominic Ang. A year later, the same trio scored one more victory at Sepang's endurance race.
Masataka Yanagida in 2016
Racing with Nissan until 2016
In 2013, Yanagida and Quintarelli moved to the #23 Nismo Nissan GT-R, scoring no wins and finishing sixth in the points. In 2014, Yanagida rejoined Mola to drive the #46 Nissan GT-R alongside Satoshi Motoyama, ending a season 11th in the points.
Yanagida and Motoyama were a pair again in 2015, scoring a victory at Chang International Circuit to finish sixth in the points. In 2016, his last season with Nissan, Yanagida was sharing the #24 Kondo Racing GT-R with Daiki Sasaki. They were race winners two times, at Sportsland Sugo and Twin Ring Motegi, but finished only seventh in the points.
Masataka Yanagida was driving Audi in 2017
2017 Super GT Series season with Audi
Between the seasons, from October 2015 to January 2016, Yanagida raced with Team AAI in the LMP3 class of the Asian Le Mans Series, finishing third in the points with two podiums.
The biggest change in a career followed in 2017 when Yanagida left Nissan to join Audi Sport Team Hitotsuyama in the GT300 class of Super GT Series. He was sharing the #21 Audi R8 LMS with Richard Lyons. The highlight of the season was a pole position in Thailand's round but in the races, their best result was the eighth place.