The Super Taikyu Organisation (STO) has published the entry list for the upcoming Fuji Super TEC 24 Hour Race, to be held in two weeks’ time from Saturday, June 1st to Sunday, June 2nd, at Fuji Speedway.
The entry list for the biggest event of the 2019 Pirelli Super Taikyu Series is also, a little worryingly, its smallest so far in the season – with just 48 cars entered. The premier ST-X Class (FIA GT3), which had seven cars in the season-opening race at Suzuka Circuit, now has just four cars for the Fuji 24 Hours. That includes the Suzuka-winning D’station Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and the MAX Racing Lexus RC F GT3 – currently number one and number two in the class championship standings, not in this field.
But of those four teams entering the 2019 Fuji 24 Hours in the premier class, there are still the reigning race winners and series champions GTNET Motor Sports, fielding the same 2015-spec Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 that won the race in 2018. Defending race winners Teruhiko Hamano, Kazuki Hoshino, and Kiyoto Fujinami will be joined by Kazuki Hiramine of the Kondo Racing GT300 team in Super GT.
There are two more GT-Rs in the field: Tairoku Racing’s new 2018-spec GT-R, with an expanded lineup that now includes Nissan racing legend, four-time Super Formula Champion, and three-time GT500 Champion Satoshi Motoyama, now joining the regular crew of Tairoku Yamaguchi, Harrison Newey, Nicolas Costa, and Shinichi Takagi.
MP Racing have the other 2015-spec GT-R for Joe Shindo, Yusaku Shibata, Ryuichiro Tomita, and joining the team for this race: Porsche Carrera Cup gentleman driver Takumi Takata, and 1998 GT500 Champion Masami Kageyama. Adding some variety to the grid is a fortified squad for X Works Racing and their Audi R8 LMS GT3, with Super GT drivers Marchy Lee and Shawn Thong returning to Super Taikyu to join regulars Tse Ka Hing, Philip Tang, and Shinya Sean Michimi.
Three entries will fight for top honours in the ST-Z (FIA GT4) category: While it looks as if the Techno First Racing Team Ginetta will no longer take part this year, and we are missing Birth Racing Project’s Mercedes-AMG GT4, we now once again have the BEND Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 in the field for the first time this year. Masamitsu Ishihara is the gentleman driver and face of the team which also boasts significant experience with co-drivers like Atsushi Yogo and Yuya Sakamoto joining him.
But it’ll be hard to stop the momentum of the Endless Sports Mercedes-AMG GT4, and an expanded lineup anchored by Yuudai Uchida, Hideki Yamauchi, Tsubasa Takahashi, and 2019 debutant Shinnosuke Yamada. After two dominant victories, Endless Sports look to strengthen their vice grip on the ST-Z class and take the maximum 45 points on offer at Fuji Speedway.
The only other car that’s been there all season is the KTM Cars Japan X-Bow GT4, they’ll have the experience of GT500 race winner Takashi Kobayashi joining the crew of Taiyou Iida, Hiroki Katoh, Hiroshi Hamaguchi, and Kazuho Takahashi, as they look to turn their season around and break the Endless Mercedes streak.
While the numbers aren’t as high in ST-Z and ST-X, ST-TCR still has a healthy five-car entry and quite a few big hitters in the ranks, young and old!
Legends like three-time GT500 Champion Juichi Wakisaka (#10 Adenau VW Golf GTI), 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Seiji Ara (#168 RFC Racing Honda Civic), F1 and Le Mans veteran Shinji Nakano (#97 Dome Racing Honda Civic Type R), and even 1992 Daytona 24 Hours winner and 1995 All-Japan F3000 Champion Toshio Suzuki (#168 RFC Racing Civic) have come out to play with the current young stars – the likes of GT500 and Super Formula star Tomoki Nojiri (#97 Dome Racing Civic), 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Katsumasa Chiyo (#22 Waimarama Kizuna Audi RS3), GT500 race winner Hironobu Yasuda (#22 Kizuna Audi), and 2015 Le Mans LMP2 winner Matthew Howson (#501 KCMG Honda Civic).
Team Mars won last year’s race with no star drivers in their lineup – they’ve switched from Audi to Honda this year, and it’s a deep field of teams and drivers where the team that suffers the least mechanical strife along the way will likely win the ST-TCR category.
Even in the lower classes there’s plenty of big-name talent, like two-time Super Formula Champion Hiroaki Ishiura – one of a number of active GT500 drivers in the Fuji 24h field competing in the ST-1/2/3/4/5 categories: There’s also Yuji Kunimoto, Kazuya Oshima, Sho Tsuboi, Kenta Yamashita, and Yuichi Nakayama representing the premier classes of Japanese motor racing – plus Toyota’s two top young prospects from the Formula 3 & GT300 ranks, Ritomo Miyata and Kazuto Kotaka.
From the GT300 class, there are also reigning series champion Naoya Gamou, alongside other top stars like three-time champion Morio Nitta, Takuto Iguchi, Katsuyuki Hiranaka, Keishi Ishikawa, Koki Saga, and Hiroki Yoshida. There’s the all-women’s team from Love Drive Racing in ST-5, competing for the third consecutive year.
Add to those names, legends such as 1991 Spa 24 Hours winner Naoki Hattori, Super GT ironman and Indy 500 regular Hideshi Matsuda, and two-time GT300 Champion and drift legend Manabu Orido – among several others – adding to the mix of star talent up and down the Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours grid.
DSC will have reports throughout the Fuji 24 Hours weekend – a great way to unwind in the midst of the testing at Le Mans!
Images courtesy of Fuji Speedway and the STO