The 48th running of the Suzuka 10 Hours has suffered yet another high-profile withdrawal in the weeks leading up to the race.
Per a report from auto sport Web, Tairoku Racing with B-Max Engineering have suspended all sports car racing activities for the remainder of 2019, including the withdrawal of their two Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s from the upcoming Suzuka 10 Hours. The team have also withdrawn from the final two races of the Pirelli Super Taikyu Series.
The decision is made with regard to the health of team owner and gentleman driver, Tairoku Yamaguchi. The 41-year-old Japanese driver has been battling an undisclosed, debilitating illness since early July, which has kept him from competing in the most recent Super Taikyu round in Autopolis, and several All-Japan Formula 3 races.
Yamaguchi was to have driven the Pro-Am Cup number 200 Tairoku Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 with fellow gentleman driver Ryuji “Dragon” Kumita, and with 2002 Super GT GT300 Drivers’ Champion, Shinichi Takagi.
A second car was also entered in the Pro Cup category and registered to score Intercontinental GT Challenge points for Nissan – the number 300 GT-R of Satoshi Motoyama, Harrison Newey, and Nicolas Costa.
The withdrawal means that, barring a last-minute entry with a different team, Satoshi Motoyama will not take part in the race, which was to have been his 14th Suzuka Summer Endurance. With four Japanese Top Formula Championships, and three GT500 Drivers’ Championships, the 48-year-old Nissan racing legend is regarded as one of the most successful drivers to never win the Suzuka 1000km/10 Hours.
It also deprives a Suzuka 10 Hours debut from Harrison Newey, who drives in the Japanese Super Formula Championship for B-Max Racing Team with Motopark, under the guidance of Motoyama, the team’s principal. The son of Adrian Newey won the 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Championship, and was set to drive full-time in Super Taikyu this season with Tairoku Racing in addition to his Super Formula campaign.
In fact, Adrian Newey was set to drive in the last Super Taikyu round in a second Tairoku Racing/B-Max Engineering car, before abandoning the endeavour due to lack of time off from Red Bull Racing.
In a statement from Tairoku Racing to auto sport Web, the team stated: “Considering Yamaguchi’s physical condition, we have decided to cancel all of our racing activities this year, with a view to the future of the entire team and our long-term goals.”
“From next fiscal year, Tairoku Racing will challenge various types of motorsport to attract the attention of Japanese racing teams. We will use this time to gather the resources to become one of the strongest privateer teams in Japan, including drivers, information, technical support, and sponsorship.”
Tairoku Racing’s departure, expected to be confirmed with the next revision of the official entry list for the Suzuka 10 Hours, follows the withdrawal of the two-car effort from McLaren Customer Racing Japan (Team Goh Motorsports) – a decision reportedly influenced by the Balance of Performance allocations for their two McLaren 720S GT3s.
Nissan are now down to just two IGTC entries, from full-season campaigners KCMG. And Motoyama’s absence will take one decorated superstar out of the field, where he was set to rekindle his rivalry with fellow GT500 legends Ryo Michigami and Juichi Wakisaka.
DSC would like to wish Yamaguchi-san a swift recovery and best wishes for he and his team to return in good spirits for 2020 and beyond.
Images courtesy of Pierre-Laurent Ribault, Takashi Ogasawara, and the Super Taikyu Organisation