The GT Association (GTA) has released the entry list for the first round of the 2020 Autobacs Super GT Series, the Takanoko Hotel Fuji GT 300km Race, to be held at Fuji Speedway on 19 July.
In total there are 15 GT500 teams, and 29 GT300 teams on the entry list.
Reigning GT500 Drivers’ Champion, Kenta Yamashita, will replace Heikki Kovalainen in the #39 Denso Kobelco SARD Toyota GR Supra for TGR Team SARD. After a successful two-day test at Fuji in his first time driving the new Toyota GR Supra GT500, Yamashita will now start the season-opening round alongside co-driver Yuichi Nakayama, with 2016 GT500 Champion Kovalainen unable to travel to Japan due to the country’s inbound travel restrictions for residents of Finland and over 110 other countries.
Yamashita was originally not scheduled to take part in Super GT this season after being assigned by Toyota to race in the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 class with High Class Racing. After the cancellation of the 1000 Miles of Sebring on 12 March, the 24-year-old driver has since returned to Japan.
The other non-resident international star on the GT500 grid, Belgium’s Bertrand Baguette, has confirmed via social media that he is back in Japan and will indeed drive the #17 Keihin Honda NSX-GT for Real Racing, alongside Koudai Tsukakoshi.
Before the first wave of coronavirus-driven lockdowns, Baguette had set the fastest time in a March pre-season test at Okayama International Circuit, one of the five venues that have been dropped from the reconstituted calendar.
Several changes have happened in the GT300 entry list. The first is the withdrawal of arto Ping An Team Thailand (formerly Panther arto Team Thailand) and their #35 Lexus RC F GT3. Their staff of foreign engineers, as well as drivers Sean Walkinshaw (Great Britain) and Nattapong Hortongkum (Thailand), were all barred from entering Japan, but the team plans to make their debut from Round 2 at Fuji, on 9 August.
Two-time Porsche Carrera Cup Japan Champion Tsubasa Kondo replaces Audi Sport factory driver Christopher Mies at Audi Team Hitotsuyama, driving alongside Shintaro Kawabata. Kondo, 31, has entered just six career Super GT rounds from 2016 to 2018 but also has three full seasons of experience driving GT3 cars in Super Taikyu with D’station Racing.
The absences of 2015 GT300 Champion André Couto and Lamborghini factory driver Dennis Lind constituted a full change of driver lineups at Team JLOC. Takashi Kogure and Yuya Motojima, who were originally placed in separate cars, will now drive the #88 JLOC Huracán GT3 together.
The #87 T-Dash Huracán GT3 will now be driven by Tsubasa Takahashi, the 25-year-old driver who drove this car full-time in 2019 and 27-year-old Shinnosuke Yamada, who’s driven for Team UPGarage and Team Taisan over the last four seasons.
Aston Martin factory driver Nicki Thiim (#9 Pacific NAC D’station Vantage GT3) and Hong Kong gentleman driver Alex Au (#33 EVA Racing X Works R8) are both tentatively listed, but their participation is subject to change.
Feature image courtesy of the GT Association