While the Super GT Series is best known for the super-silhouette versions of Japanese supercars that race in GT500, over the years a number of non-Japanese makes have entered in the top class of the series over the years, from the formative years of the class that began life as “GT-1”, all the way to the Class One era of the 2010s and the technical convergence with the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM).
As it turns out, the history of these international makes in GT500 is quite rich, and includes cars that range from proven champions, including the only foreign-make cars to win races and championships in the category, to some of the most unique oddities ever brought to a race track, from boutique kit cars and one-off racing specials that never left Japan, to Group C prototypes and Group B rally cars racing well outside of their element!
In amongst them is also a car that never raced in GT500, but tested with the intentions of doing so.
Chances are, you’ll have seen a few of these cars before in
DSC’s GT1 Week feature earlier this year, chronicling the history of GT1 cars that once raced in the JGTC & Super GT.
In total, we’ve compiled a gallery of 22 such cars, representing 14 different makes from Germany, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom (including a half-UK, half-Japanese brand).
Photographs of these cars are very rare and hard to find, especially from independent teams that ran in the early years of the JGTC – nonetheless, we have done our level best to ensure that each independent photographer has been credited for their work, and our sincere thanks go out to each of them for their work.
1994 Taisan Advan Porsche 962C: The JGTC was meant to be a step forward from the era of the Group Cs, but ambitious privateers Team Taisan ran this Porsche 962C at three events in the inaugural 1994 season – it won pole in the first race at Fuji, and won Round 3, also at Fuji – despite severe power and weight handicaps, and the lack of first gear which sent the car falling down the order in the only year that the JGTC did standing starts! | © Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1994-96 Taisan Starcard Ferrari F40: Team Taisan also ran a road-going Ferrari F40 during the 1994 season, where Oscar Larrauri and Tetsuya Ota scored the only JGTC/Super GT top class victory for an Italian car at the season finale at Miné – at least two F40s were built for competition, competing part time in ’95 and ’96, and one was auctioned off for 121 million Japanese Yen in 2018. | ©Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1994 Rain-X/Art Sports Lamborghini Countach: The Japan Lamborghini Owners’ Club (JLOC) began their JGTC/Super GT existence in this racing-modified Countach, which managed a best finish of 8th in the second round of the ’94 season at Sendai Hi-Land Raceway.
1994-95 BP Advan Porsche 964 RSR Turbo: Team Kunimitsu’s first JGTC foray was in this 964 Turbo, which took their first win at Sugo in 1994, and competed again in 1995 with new title sponsors BP – before embarking on a new partnership with Honda after their NSX GT2 won at Le Mans. | ©Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1994 Rosso Competition Lancia 037-MYZ: The greatest oddity of the early years of GT500, a rally car in a GT race – the beautiful WRC title-winning Lancia 037 ran the 1994 Japan Special GT Cup at Fuji where Naohiro Furuya drove to a 9th-place finish in the GT-1 Class. | ©Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1995-1996 Team Taisan Porsche 911 GT2: The gold standard of the early years of GT2 in Europe, Team Taisan had as many as three 911 GT2s entered by the middle of the 1995 season. The trio of Porsches won three races in total, and Team Taisan won the 1995 GT-1 Teams’ Championship; Taisan ran the car through mid-1997 and collected a handful of top-tens, and other privateers ran the 911 GT2 during this period as well.
1995-1996 Rain-X/Tamura Lamborghini Diablo Jota: Commissioned by JLOC, Lamborghini built the Diablo Jota as a homologation special for racing in the GT500 class of the JGTC, and had ambitions to compete at Le Mans early in the car’s life – the Diablo Jota’s best finish was 11th in three seasons, including a part-time return in ’98. | ©Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1996 McLaren F1 GTR: Team Goh’s factory-run F1 GTRs are an important piece of the McLaren F1 GTR’s racing legacy – in the one season they competed, the pink and black McLarens racked up four wins, six poles, and both the Teams’ and Drivers’ Championship with David Brabham and John Nielsen taking the crown – the only time a non-Japanese car has won the undisputed GT500 Championship. | © Fuji Speedway
1997-2000 JLOC Lamborghini Diablo GT1: It never raced in Europe as intended, but Team JLOC sent the loud, potent Diablo GT1 racing in the JGTC – where the car recorded two top-10 finishes in four seasons. It also made a cheeky appearance in the Japanese version of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – the car was taken out of international releases at Lamborghini’s request, then reinstated once Sony got the license for the Italian automaker in future installments of the series. | © Lamborghini
1997 Advance Auto Chevrolet Camaro: One of the least-known JGTC oddities was Advance Auto’s Camaro GT500 car that looked straight out of the Trans-Am series – but with a heavily-restricted LT1 engine and little high-end experience amongst the team, the Camaro only entered the 1997 Fuji summer race and retired with an engine failure after running well off the pace of the factory GT500s. | ©Hiro-kun (Twitter: @kun71094249)
1997-2000 Team Taisan Chrysler Viper GTS-R: Taisan’s last GT500 effort was with the Viper GTS-R that was a top performer in GT2 – the car debuted with an 8th-place finish at Sugo, then finished 6th in the first leg of the non-championship All-Star Race at Motegi – in total the 8-litre Taisan Viper took three top-10s in three-plus seasons in GT500 before Taisan moved to GT300 permanently by the end of 2000.
1999-2001 SOK McLaren F1 GTR: The longtail McLaren was run by the likes of Team Take One, who took the F1 GTR’s last win in 2001, and Hitotsuyama Racing, who took the car’s last pole position in 2002 – and made the F1 GTR’s last entry in 2005. To this day this is still the last non-Japanese race winner in the premier class of JGTC/Super GT. | © Suzuka Circuit
2000 RGS Mirage GT-1: This Countach-inspired kit car came to Japan by way of the British GT Championship in 2000, but the 6.7 litre Chevy V8-powered Mirage GT-1 made only four appearances in GT500 and failed to take the starting grid in any of them – thankfully the car made a return to the series in 2003 as a GT300 machine, a cult classic among avid JGTC fans!
2001-03 JLOC Lamborghini Diablo JGT-1: JLOC redeveloped the chassis, suspension, and other parts of the Diablo GT1 to create the JGT-1, which managed a handful of 15th place finishes as its best result in three seasons – plus a one-off return in 2004 that ended in a DNS. | ©Teru987 (blog.livedoor.jp/teru987/)
2002 HKS Mercedes-Benz CLK GT500: One of the most ambitious constructions of the JGTC – this wasn’t a DTM car, this was HKS’ interpretation of a Mercedes CLK built specifically for GT500, with an HKS-tuned 6-litre M119 engine and a body wrapped in their signature colours – it only finished one of the five races it entered, but it always caught the attention of fans on the grid! | © HKS Europe Ltd.
2003-04 Vemac R&D Dunlop RD350R/408R: The Anglo-Japanese sports car maker Vemac briefly appeared in GT500 with R&D Sport (now of Subaru fame) running the Zytek V8-powered RD350R in the 2003 JGTC – despite a lack of horsepower they managed a 9th place finish in the July race at Fuji. In 2004, the car returned as the RD408R with a new 4-litre Mugen V8, where it ran the season finale at Suzuka and finished 13th. | ©GX (Twitter: @Gx_CRZ)
2004-05 JLOC Lamborghini Murciélago RG-1: JLOC developed the Murciélago R-GT into the RG-1 for JGTC/Super GT competition starting in 2004. The car recorded a best finish of 13th in the 2005 opener, but by the end of ’05 JLOC voluntarily dropped down to GT300 after years of struggling in the top class. | © GTA
2004-05 Nomad Ferrari 550 GTS: The Prodrive-built Ferrari (C/N #105849) raced for two seasons in JGTC/Super GT, recording a best finish of 12th in 15 appearances. After Super GT, Hitotsuyama Racing brought this car over to the short-lived Japan Le Mans Challenge, where it won both of the series’ LMGT1 Championships. | © GTA
2006 Stile Corse Maserati MC12 GT1: Team Goh, two years removed from winning Le Mans, aimed for a Super GT return with the all-conquering MC12 – but after poor pre-season testing results at Suzuka, the ambitious Stile Corse effort withdrew just days before the first race of the season.
2009 Aston Martin Akasaka DBR9 GT1: Hitotsuyama Racing and Nova Engineering ran a limited schedule in 2009 with the Le Mans-winning DBR9, finishing each of its three races in 14th place. Also finished 2nd in class at the 2009 1000km of Okayama, the very first Asian Le Mans Series race.
2019 Hitotsuyama Audi Japan RS5 DTM: Entered in the 2019 Super GT x DTM Dream Race at Fuji. A returning Benoît Tréluyer finished 6th in the first of two races in this car, fielded by Hitotsuyama Racing. Fellow GT500 Champion Loïc Duval finished 3rd in Race 2. | © Audi
2019 ZF BMW M4 DTM: Also entered in the 2019 Super GT x DTM Dream Race. The immortal Alex Zanardi led briefly in Race 2, a reminder of the four-time Paralymic gold medal winner’s class and determination which has served as an inspiration to all, and continues to do so as Zanardi fights to recover from his latest injuries – we are all wishing you the very best. | © BMW