One of Super GT’s most experienced and fearless competitors is stepping away from the championship in 2019.
Brazilian driver João Paulo Lima de Oliveira announced today that he will be leaving Nissan and the Autobacs Super GT Series after 13 years together.
“After 13 years racing for Nissan in Super GT, it is time to end this chapter,” Oliveira said in a statement on social media this morning. “ So many incredible memories were made and friendships that will last a lifetime. I will cherish the rewards, take the positives with me, and focus on starting the next chapter now.”
“2019 has already started and I don’t have any news on what I will be doing yet. It’s not an ideal position to be in at this time, but I will stay positive. Challenges always spark a fire inside of me, and to be fairly honest, I haven’t felt this way in a while. I’m looking forward to what the future will bring with an open mind and the confidence that I can make a difference wherever I will go.”
“To all my friends, fans, and supporters, I can’t thank you enough for always standing with me. As many of you know, I’m not someone who likes to be in the media and get all the attention. I will continue to work hard and get things done in the background.” “I’ll do my best to bring some good news soon. Thank you all.”
“JP” Oliveira’s time in Japan began in the All-Japan Formula Three Championship, finishing runner-up with Dome Racing to future Nissan stablemate Ronnie Quintarelli in 2004, before moving to TOM’s and winning the title in 2005. The following year, Oliveira made the step up to Super GT, driving for legendary team owner Masahiro Hasemi.
2007 was when Oliveira’s Japanese career took off, making the move to Kondo Racing in GT500 and getting his first full-time Formula Nippon (now Super Formula) drive with them as well. His first win came at the fourth race of the 2007 season at Sepang International Circuit, alongside co-driver Seiji Ara.
This began a record streak for Oliveira of eight consecutive seasons with a race victory, from the first win at Sepang in 2007 to a win in the prestigious Fuji 500km on Golden Week in 2014. It included three straight seasons from 2009 to 2011 of winning the first round of the championship, including a win at Suzuka Circuit in 2010, at the last 300km race at Suzuka until this year.
In 2011, Oliveira moved from Kondo Racing to Team Impul, driving the famous Calsonic GT-R for team owner Masahiro Hasemi. From 2012 to 2015, Oliveira was a perennial championship contender in the premier class of Super GT, coming as close to winning the GT500 Drivers’ Championship in the final race of the season in 2014 and 2015, driving alongside Hironobu Yasuda.
Oliveira and Yasuda racked up four podiums in 2015, but missed out on the title by just five points to Oliveira’s former co-driver Tsugio Matsuda, and Ronnie Quintarelli, in the rival Motul Autech NISMO GT-R.
Oliveira’s final victory in the GT500 class came in the 2016 Fuji 300km summer race, just months after a heartbreaking tyre blowout on the penultimate lap of the 500km while battling Quintarelli for the victory. A move back to Kondo Racing in 2017 brought Oliveira’s career full-circle, where he took pole position for the final Suzuka 1000km in 2017.
In 107 career races over 13 seasons, Oliveira recorded 8 race wins, 19 podium finishes, 6 pole positions, and 71 top-10 finishes. In 2017, Oliveira was honoured by Super GT for appearing in 100 career races and reaching “Graded Driver” status, the first Brazilian to achieve the status, and only the fourth of five non-Japanese drivers to do so, alongside Quintarelli, Michael Krumm, André Couto, and Richard Lyons.
Oliveira’s brilliance and relentless pace extended to the world of single-seaters, where he won 10 races in Formula Nippon/Super Formula. In 2010, driving for Team Impul, Oliveira won the Japanese Top Formula Championship, ahead of future three-time Le Mans 24 Hours champion André Lotterer, a championship secured with a victory over Lotterer in the final round at Suzuka.
JP’s departure is the latest in a string of exits from the Nissan factory racing programme, following European stalwarts Alex Buncombe and Lucas Ordoñez earlier this winter. It also confirms at least a small piece of Nissan’s silly season puzzle, as rumours of a massive shakeup of Nissan’s GT500 driver lineup continue on in the weeks leading up to their announcement, expected to come in February.
On behalf of everyone at DSC, we wish JP the absolute best of luck in whatever comes next – and if this indeed is the end of his career in Super GT, a salute to an incredibly talented driver and a legend of the series.
Images courtesy of Nissan