The restructured calendar will see series travel to fewer venues, set to begin 19 July at Fuji Speedway.
The GT Association (GTA) announced a revised calendar and a roadmap for the Autobacs Super GT Series to return to racing action, with consideration to preventative measures during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The new calendar, published by the GTA on Thursday (and pending approval from the FIA and JAF), will still consist of eight races, held from July to November 2020, under the current plan to hold the first four races, perhaps more, behind closed doors. Seven of the eight races are confirmed to take place in a centralized region of Japan, at the major circuits of Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit, and Twin Ring Motegi, with the season finale set to be held at Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
As announced in April, a pre-season test at Fuji Speedway that was originally scheduled for 28-29 March, then cancelled due to the nationwide State of Emergency declaration in Japan, will be held on 27-28 June.
The season will begin with back-to-back rounds at Fuji Speedway – the first, on the weekend of 19 July – one week later than originally scheduled, and the second, on the weekend of 9 August, a date and venue that was originally announced in April.
Suzuka Circuit, which planned to host the Intercontinental GT Challenge Suzuka 10 Hours on the weekend of 23 August, will now host the third round of the Super GT season on that same weekend. After that, the series heads to Twin Ring Motegi on 13 September.
The series returns to Fuji for Round 5 on 4 October, the traditional calendar slot for the 6 Hours of Fuji. The GTA states that it assumes that every race will be behind closed doors. But depending on the development of the Coronavirus pandemic and steps taken to mitigate risk, it could be by this point in the season that spectators might be able to attend again.
A second Suzuka round will take place on 25 October. The weekend of 8 November will still be reserved for Motegi, which now hosts the penultimate round of the season.
As for the final round, the primary plan will be to have the last race at Buriram on the weekend after Christmas, the weekend of 27 December. If it is not possible for the race to take place responsibly and logistically, then the final round will take place instead at Fuji, on the weekend of 28 November.
No formats for any of these events have been announced as of yet.
This means that the three big domestic racing venues located outside of Central Japan will be left off the calendar: Okayama International Circuit, Autopolis International Racing Course, and – ending a streak of twenty-six consecutive seasons on the Super GT calendar since the inaugural 1994 season – Sportsland Sugo.
This means as well that the series’ planned return to Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, and first planned night-time sprint race, have been delayed until at least next season.
The GTA has also put into place its countermeasures to protect teams, drivers, and personnel. Every team will be assigned a “health manager” to monitor the status of personnel daily. Personnel will continue to be subject to regular questionnaires and tests, as well as etiquette and sanitary guidelines implemented by the GTA that all on-track personnel will be asked to adhere to, on the circuit, and away from the circuit (hotels, restaurants, etc.)
The number of on-track personnel will be limited, and extraneous corporate functions will be eliminated. Even the selection of the venues was done as a precautionary measure, ensuring that personnel will be able to travel to the events in a timely manner by way of a private vehicle.
Speaking of personnel and travel, it is not yet determined if exceptions will be granted to permit drivers and other team members currently based outside of Japan, whose countries are on an extensive travel ban list, to allow them to participate.
2020 Autobacs Super GT Series Calendar (current as of 4 June)
18/19 July: Fuji Speedway
8/9 August: Fuji Speedway
22/23 August: Suzuka Circuit
12/13 September: Twin Ring Motegi
3/4 October: Fuji Speedway
24/25 October: Suzuka Circuit
7/8 November: Twin Ring Motegi
26/27 December: Chang International Circuit (Thailand)*
*Alternate plan: 27/28 November, Fuji Speedway