Richard Lyons is a British racing driver who achieved the greatest success in Japan, winning the Formula Nippon and Japanese GT Championship titles in 2004. He currently competes in the Japanese Super GT Series with Audi Team Hitotsuyama.
Before making his name in Japan, Lyons gained some success in British and European open-wheel competitions, finishing as a vice-champion in the Formula Vauxhall Junior and Formula Palmer Audi.
Early success in open-wheel racing
Born in August 1979 in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, Richard Lyons started his racing career in the Formula Vauxhall Junior Winter Series in 1996. He then entered the full season of the Formula Vauxhall Junior in 1997, finishing sixth in the points. In 1998, he scored five FVJ wins and finished second in the points, behind Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia.
Lyons was again among the front-runners in the Formula Palmer Audi in 1999, scoring four wins in fifteen races and finishing second in the points. He spent one more season in European open-wheel racing, racing part-time both in the Formula Palmer Audi or Formula Renault UK. In 2000, Lyons also made two starts in the British GT Championship with Marcos Mantis and two starts in the SportsCar Racing with two different prototypes.
Starting a Japanese career in 2001
In 2001, Lyons moved to Japan, entering the Formula Nippon with Team Morinaga Nova. He was driving the #9 G-Force-Mugen, scoring no points in ten races.
He also made a debut in the Japanese GT Championship, joining Team Take One at Suzuka 1000 and finishing third in the #30 McLaren F1 GTR which he was sharing with Andre Couto and Hideki Okada.
2002 – first season with a double programme in Japan
For the 2002 Formula Nippon season, Lyons joined Docomo Team Dandelion Racing to drive the #68 Reynard-Mugen. He was on a podium once, at Sugo, finishing tenth in the championship standings.
In 2002, Lyons also expanded his racing commitments to the full season in the Japanese GT Championship with Dome Mugen Project. He was sharing the #18 Honda NSX with the Frenchman Sebastien Philippe. They were on a podium in the season-opening race at Aida and then scored their first win at Motegi, finishing ninth in the championship points of GT500 class.
Joining Nismo in 2003
For the 2003 GT Championship season, Lyons made a move to Nismo, sharing the #22 Nissan Skyline GT-R with Masami Kageyama. They were winners at Fuji 500 and added one more podium at Fuji's Special Cup, finishing the season third in the points.
In the Formula Nippon, Lyons continued to race with Dandelion Racing in the #40 Lola-Mugen. He won summer race at Suzuka from a pole and added two more podiums in other races, finishing sixth in the championship.
Two championship titles in Japan in 2004
For the 2004 GT Championship season, Lyons joined defending champion Satoshi Motoyama in the #1 Nismo Nissan Fairlady Z. They were on a podium four times, including two wins at Okayama and Autopolis, taking the back-to-back title for Nismo.
The season 2004 turned out to be the best in a career for Lyons because he added one more championship title to his account. At the wheel of the #40 Lola-Mugen, he won two races and captured Formula Nippon title, tied in the points with Andre Lotterer.
Racing with Nismo until 2007
After winning the championship title in Japanese GT Championship, Lyons stayed with Nismo for three more seasons in the Super GT Series. In 2005, he and Satoshi Motoyama finished third in the points after winning one race in the #1 Nissan Fairlady Z.
In 2006, Lyons was sharing the #22 Nissan with Michael Krumm in six races, scoring three podiums to finish 10th in the points. In 2007, his last season with Nismo, Lyons partnered Satoshi Motoyama in the #23 Nissan Fairlady Z. They won one race, at Fuji, to finish eighth in the points.
Leaving Formula Nippon at the end of 2009
In Formula Nippon, as a defending champion, Lyons was driving the #1 Lola-Mugen in 2005, winning one race and finishing third in the final classification. After that, he was out of Formula Nippon until the penultimate round in 2008 at Fuji, driving the #20 Lola-Toyota for Team Impul.
Then, he returned full time to Formula Nippon in 2009, driving the #40 Swift-Honda for Dandelion Racing. He scored just one podium and finished 10th in the points. It was his last Formula Nippon season in a career.
Representing Ireland in the A1 Grand Prix Series
While developing a successful career in Japan, Lyons has been recruited to represent Team Ireland in the 2006-2006 A1 Grand Prix Series.
He raced in seven rounds from December 2006 to April 2007, scoring points in South Africa and China to place Team Ireland to 19th place in final standings. The second driver, who raced in first four rounds, was Michael Devaney.
Three seasons with Team Cerumo
After five seasons with Nismo in the GT Championship/Super GT Series, Lyons joined Team Cerumo in 2008. His new race car was the #38 Lexus SC 430. Sharing a car with Yuji Tachikawa, he won Fuji 500 and added two more podiums, finishing the season as a vice-champion.
Lyons and Tachikawa stayed together in the #38 Lexus in 2009, scoring a victory in Suzuka 300 race and finishing tenth in the points. The third season with Team Cerumo followed in 2010. This time, Lyons and Tachikawa scored no wins and just one podium to finish ninth in the points.
Victory at 2011 Gold Coast 600 at Surfers Paradise
Parallel to his commitments in Japan, Lyons made trips to Australia in 2006 and 2007 to participate in endurance races of the V8 Supercars Championship with Triple Eight Engineering. He was a co-driver to Allan Simonsen in the #88 Ford Falcon at Sandown and Bathurst. Their best result in four races was the fifth place at 2007 Bathurst 1000.
Lyons returned to V8 Supercars Championship in 2011, driving the #19 Ford Falcon for Tekno Autosports at Phillip Island and Bathurst and then the #5 Ford Falcon for Ford Performance Racing at Surfers Paradise. He and Mark Winterbottom were third in Saturday's race and won Sunday's race.
Racing with Audi since 2012
After spending 2011 out of Japanese racing competitions, Lyons returned to Super GT Series in 2012. He partnered Kazuki Nakajima at Fuji 500 in the #36 Lexus SC430 and then joined Hitotsuyama Racing from the fifth round to drive the #21 Audi R8 LMS in GT300 class, sharing a car with Akihiro Tsuzuki.
In 2013, Lyons became full-time driver of the #21 Audi, still with Tsuzuki as a co-driver. They were far from the top, just 26th in the points. The results were slightly better in 2014 when Lyons scored one podium in the #21 Audi, finishing 15th in the points. His co-driver was Tomonobu Fujii. In 2015, Lyons and Fujii scored one more podium, finishing 13th in GT300 classification.
Only Super GT victory with Audi in 2016
Richard Lyons scored his first and only Super GT victory with Audi in 2016, winning at Motegi together with Tomonobu Fujii. They finished third in the points at the end of the season, what remained Lyons' best result with Audi.
Masataka Yanagida was Richard's new co-driver in the #21 Audi R8 LMS in 2017. They were on a pole position in one race but far from the top in races, finishing just 21st in final GT300 standings. In 2018, Lyons stayed in the #21 Audi for the sixth consecutive season, sharing a car with Ryuishiro Tomita and scoring just one point in eight races. Lyons and Tomita are partners again in the 2019 Super GT season.
Gaining some GT success outside of Japan
In recent five years, Lyons also recorded certain GT experience outside of Japan, participating occasionally or full-time in some GT competitions such as GT Asia, Blancpain GT Series, British GT Championship, FIA GT World Cup, International GT Open or Asian Le Mans Series.
He scored some notable results. In September 2013, he and Frank Yu won Asian Le Mans Series race at Fuji in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. In 2014, he races with AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in the British GT Championship and scored one win with the same car in the International GT Open. He also scored few podiums with Craft-Bamboo Racing's Aston Martin in GT Asia.