In April, it was announced that two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen would make his return to racing in the 48th running of the SMBC/BH Auction Suzuka 10 Hours on August 25, driving a McLaren 720S GT3 for a brand-new team.
Little was known about the Japanese team for which Häkkinen would race for, until recently, with Tokyo-based classic car dealer Planex Cars revealing the name, number, and livery of their entry.
The team will be entered as “Planex SmaCam Racing” and the team’s livery will be predominantly white, dark blue, and light blue. These the iconic colours of star driver Häkkinen’s crash helmet made famous at the peak of his F1 successes, his two world championship titles in 1998 and 1999.
Häkkinen will be part of a Pro-class lineup that also features two-time Super Formula Champion, and two-time overall winner of the Suzuka Summer Endurance Race, Hiroaki Ishiura. Ishiura, normally a Toyota factory driver in Super Formula and Super GT, appears with McLaren and his personal sponsors Planex Group – who are owned by the third driver of the team, Katsuaki Kubota, a Bronze-graded, 57-year-old gentleman driver who’s honed his craft in the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship.
To support the team, Planex SmaCam Racing have enlisted the assistance of one of Super GT’s most experienced GT300 class teams, Gainer, to provide technical and engineering support. The Kyoto-based Gainer team scored the GT300 class victory in the 2015 Suzuka 1000km and entered last year’s Suzuka 10 Hours with one of their own Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s. The Planex SmaCam McLaren will also carry Gainer’s signature number 11.
Ishiura and Kubota completed a successful shakedown of their new Suzuka 10 Hours challenger on May 10 at Suzuka Circuit, and Häkkinen himself just tested a 720S in Spain this past weekend in preparation for his first competitive race since the 2013 GT Asia Series race in Zhuhai, China.
Häkkinen and Ishiura of Planex SmaCam Racing are just two of the big-name talents entered so far in this year’s Suzuka 10 Hours: Super GT legends like Juichi Wakisaka, Tsugio Matsuda, Satoshi Motoyama, and Ryo Michigami; reigning DTM champion Gary Paffett, and reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge and Suzuka 10 Hours champion Tristan Vautier are among the star talents already entered with just a little over two months remaining before August 25.
Images courtesy of Planex Cars