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Super GT GT300 News Notebook: Snippets From The Tokyo Auto Salon

RJ O'Connell rounds up the GT300 stories emerging from Tokyo

Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO unchanged for 2018

The reigning GT300 champions, Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO, are out to successfully defend their crown for the first time ever, and will do so with the same car and drivers from their 2017 championship campaign (above).

To little surprise, three-time GT300 champions Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka return for their seventh season together for GSR.

Only the number changes for their Mercedes-AMG GT3, from 4 to 0 – the unofficial GT300 “champion’s number” that was first used by GSR in 2012.

The team have also declared their entry into the 2018 Suzuka 10 Hours, with Kamui Kobayashi joining the team as their third driver as he did in this past year’s 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Cars Tokai Dream28 look to rebound with “Version 2” Lotus from Mooncraft

To say that 2017 was a disappointment for long time GT300 campaigners Cars Tokai Dream28 would be a massive understatement, as they finished 30th and last in the Teams’ Championship in a season plagued with poor reliability.

But Mooncraft Engineering are bringing extensive aerodynamic and structural refinements to what they’ve dubbed the “Version 2” of their Lotus Evora MC (Mother Chassis) which was launched in 2015.

At the heart of the Evora, however, remains the standard 4.5 litre V8 engine and common carbon fibre monocoque that comes standard with all Mother Chassis builds.

Kazuho Takahashi and Hiroki Katoh, who will turn 65 and 50 respectively before the start of the season, make up one of the oldest and most experienced pro-am driver lineups as they take part in their thirteenth season together.

New drivers and sponsors for the LM Corsa Lexus RC Fs!

2017 was the breakthrough year for the Lexus RC F GT3, which enjoyed success worldwide after two years of grueling on-track R&D work.

LM Corsa will continue to field two RC F GT3s, one maintained by INGING Motorsport, the other maintained by Osaka Toyopet garage. But there will be substantial changes for both cars in 2018!

The INGING/LM Corsa entry, which finished third in last year’s GT300 Championships and won two races in 2017, has a new number (#96), a new title sponsor – Okayama Toyopet and the “K-Tunes Racing” label, and a revised driver lineup from 2017.

Morio Nitta, the 51-year-old, three-time GT300 Drivers’ Champion, will move over from the #50 INGING & Arnage Racing Ferrari to drive the #96 K-Tunes P.MU RC F GT3 with the returning Yuichi Nakayama, the former Japanese F3 champion and Toyota factory driver.

In 2017, Nitta and the INGING/Arnage squad recovered from a frightening crash at the season opener in Okayama, to take a somewhat miraculous second place finish at Sugo just three months later.

Nitta is the outright most experienced campaigner in Super GT history, with 168 career starts from 1994 to 2017, and 18 career wins, tied for most all-time. His co-driver, Nakayama, has finished in the top three in each of his first three full seasons in the GT300 class, with five victories.

In the #60 Syntium LM Corsa RC F, 18-year-old Ritomo Miyata (left, with mentor Tatsuya Kataoka) will become the youngest driver on the grid as he replaces the retiring Akira Iida alongside Hiroki Yoshimoto.

Miyata is a two-time FIA F4 Japanese Champion, a multiple karting champion, and the youngest pupil of the Toyota Young Driver Programme (TDP). He’s one of the brightest young stars in Japanese motorsport, that much is undisputable.

But his is a story of significant human achievement as well: Miyata was diagnosed with autism early in his childhood, yet it has not hindered his development as a racing driver and, most importantly, as an outstanding young person and an inspiration to many who are on the autism spectrum (including, the author of this piece.)

Iida, who competed in Super GT as a driver from 1994-2008 and from 2014-2017, will take over as the team director of the #60 car after three decades of a driving career that saw him win the GT500 title in 2002, the GT2 class at Le Mans in 1995, and three times take the victory in his class at the Nürburgring 24h.

Iida originally announced Miyata as his successor a week prior, on TV Tokyo’s weekly magazine show, Super GT+.

Continuity remains key at ARTA-BMW

Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) announced the continuation of their GT300 programme with the BMW M6 GT3, officially putting to rest long-persistent rumours of a switch back to Honda with the NSX GT3.

The driver lineup remains unchanged from 2017, as GT300 mainstay Shinichi Takagi will return to partner British sophomore, Sean Walkinshaw. The team finished fourth in the GT300 Championships with five top-5 finishes (including victory at Fuji), thanks in large part to their aggressive pit strategies.

Sean Walkinshaw: “I’m so pleased to be returning to Super GT again this year with the ARTA guys and especially with Shinichi-san as my team-mate for a second season. We gelled so well together last year, had a fantastic season and, to be fair, we weren’t that far away from the championship in the end.

There is a possibility that ARTA will be BMW’s only GT300 representative for 2018, with suggestion that BMW Team Studie will suspend operations after four years as a stand-alone entry.

…And Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave look to improve in second season

Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave turned heads with the reveal of their Mother Chassis Toyota Mark X this time last year. For 2018, it’s about evolution over revolution for the sophomore squadron.

The #52 Mark X will once again be entrusted to the veteran duo of Shigekazu Wakisaka, and former GT300 champion Taku Bamba. Unlike 2017, there are no plans for gentleman driver Takayuki Hiranuma to race in the series.

They will continue to emphasize their fan-friendly approach, and will continue to field a team of mechanics comprised entirely of service mechanics – seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the pinnacle of Japanese sports car racing.

Image Credits: Toyota, ARTA Project, Goodsmile Company, INGING Motorsport, Lotus Cars Japan, and Takashi Ogasawara (auto sport Magazine)