Narain Karthikeyan announced on Monday that he is leaving the Autobacs Super GT Series after one season, just over a month after winning the second leg of the Super GT x DTM Dream Race at Fuji Speedway.
The 42-year-old driver, a trailblazer for motor racing in India as the first from his country to compete in Formula One (and a one-time Le Mans 24 Hours starter in 2009), had raced in the Super Formula Championship for five seasons before switching to Super GT this year, partnering Tadasuke Makino in the #64 Modulo Epson Honda NSX-GT.
Karthikeyan and Makino scored six top-ten finishes in the eight championship rounds, including a second-place finish in a rain-soaked penultimate round at Sportsland Sugo, and finished 12th in the GT500 Drivers’ Championship.
But the highlight of Karthikeyan’s season was the Dream Race at Fuji, where he started from the front row and commanded the calamitous 55-minute sprint race thanks to perfectly timed Safety Car restarts, to see off the challenge of DTM stars Loïc Duval and Marco Wittmann, and claim his first auto racing victory since 2013, which now serves as the perfect end chapter to Karthikeyan’s time in Japan that began in the Super Formula Championship in 2014.
“2019 has been an amazing year for me, but also a mega-busy one. I’ve travelled to Japan so many times that I’ve lost count actually. My year ended in the most amazing way ever by winning the DTM x Super GT Dream Race,” Karthikeyan told the Times of India on Monday.
“I would like to say thank you to Satoru-san and the entire Nakajima Racing family for making it such a fantastic year. I have raced with them for a few years now in Japan, and it really feels like I have a second family in Japan,” he said.
Karthikeyan becomes the third driver to depart Honda’s GT500 camp after Jenson Button confirmed his exit from the series following the championship finale at Twin Ring Motegi, and Daisuke Nakajima announced his retirement after the Dream Race weekend.
And the announcement comes just days before Honda’s full range of motorsports activities, including their full participation in Super GT in 2020, are to be announced this Friday at the Tokyo Auto Salon in Chiba, Japan.