On Tuesday, the GT Association (GTA), promoter of the Autobacs Super GT Series, announced the complete 2020 entry list, featuring 15 GT500 class entries and 30 GT300 class entries to comprise a maxed-out 45 car grid this season.
On the GT500 side of things, there are few revelations with all of the team and driver combinations locked in since early February. It’s still the same six Toyota GR Supra GT500s, five Honda NSX-GTs, and four Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500s.
One point of interest is that Team Mugen has yet to announce a title sponsor for the upcoming season. Japanese publication auto sport has reported that Red Bull are expected to become the new title sponsor, and support Super GT rookie Ukyo Sasahara as a sponsored athlete.
But there’s more interest on the GT300 side of things – 30 cars, made up of 23 FIA GT3 models, four JAF-GT300 original designs, and three JAF-GT Mother Chassis, representing a total of twelve manufacturers.
Among the GT300 entries is a team that returns to the series after two years’ absence, BMW Team Studie x CSL. As a partner with Goodsmile Racing & Team UKYO, Studie won the 2011 GT300 Championship, and then as an independent team, have won two GT World Challenge Asia GT4 titles – the teams’ title in 2018, and the drivers’ title for Jukuchou Sunako in 2019.
2004 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Seiji Ara, who raced for BMW Team Studie from 2014 to 2017, returns after spending last year with McLaren Customer Racing Japan (Team Goh Motorsport) alongside IndyCar-bound Alex Palou.
Ara will be joined by a new teammate: Tomohide Yamaguchi, the reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Japan Gentleman Class Champion. The 46-year-old has only been racing since 2017, yet is making rapid progress as a true amateur.
The top non-Japanese team in GT300, Hong Kong’s X Works Racing have switched back to their more familiar Audi R8 LMS GT3, one of two R8s in the 2020 field alongside that of Audi Team Hitotsuyama.
Fresh off his debut LMP2 campaign in the Asian Le Mans Series, Shaun Thong will return as X Works’ lead driver, joined by Super GT newcomer, 44-year-old amateur Alex Au.
Last week, Audi Team Hitotsuyama announced their plans, with a wholesale driver change, and a new business partner – as Team LeMans, after two decades as a Toyota factory team in the premier classes of GT500 and Super Formula, take on the new challenge of vehicle maintenance and trackside operations for Hitotsuyama Racing.
The 2020 Super GT lineup for Audi Team Hitotsuyama is anchored by “super rookie” Christopher Mies. The 30-year-old Audi ace is no stranger to success – two Nurburgring 24 Hour victories, back-to-back Bathurst 12 Hour victories, and series championships in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, ADAC GT Masters, and Australian GT Championship.
And 27-year-old Shintaro Kawabata, the last driver mentored by the late racing legend Keiji Matsumoto, is back in racing after a year out. Kawabata last drove for Team Taisan in 2018, and got the nod for the new-look Audi Team Hitotsuyama based on past experience with Audi as well as successful tests carried out since January.
Looking at the rest of the grid, confirmation came in that Yuya Hiraki will rejoin the previously-announced Natsu Sakaguchi at Team Mach.
A pair of privateer Mercedes-AMG customer teams retain their driver lineups: Masaki Kano and Ryosei Yamashita are back at Arnage Racing, while Hisashi Wada and Masaki Jyonai are back at R’Qs Motor Sports, with both teams expecting to move up to the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT3 “Evo”.
And Panther arto Team Thailand, the second “international” entry in GT300, will retain incumbents Sean Walkinshaw and Nattapong Horthongkum.
There is just one team that’s yet to announce their drivers for the upcoming season, and that is recent AsLMS campaigners and Super GT stalwarts, Team JLOC. Isao Noritake’s team will be the last to confirm their drivers for their two Lamborghini Huracan GT3s.
Across the board, a full entry list represents a further testament to the health and viability of the Autobacs Super GT Series, one that should serve as a positive example for which other series should strive towards.