The GT Association (GTA) has published the entry list for the first round of the 2021 Autobacs Super GT Series, the Takanokono Hotel Okayama GT 300km Race on 10-11 April.
All 44 full-season entries will be present, 15 GT500 cars, and 29 GT300 cars. But in GT500, it’s the two drivers who won’t be present that are the big story of the first race of 2021.
Reigning and defending GT500 Drivers’ Champion, Tadasuke Makino, will be out of action as he continues his recovery from a case of meningitis that he suffered in December. He missed all of the official pre-season tests as a result, and will now miss the first rounds of both the Super GT and Super Formula seasons.
Taking Makino’s place in the #1 Stanley Honda NSX-GT of Team Kunimitsu, is veteran driver Hideki Mutoh – who will join forces with the two-time GT500 Champion, Naoki Yamamoto.
Mutoh, the 2013 GT300 Champion, is a nine-year GT500 veteran – which includes a previous one-year stint at Team Kunimitsu in 2014. Mutoh has filled in for Makino during the two official pre-season tests conducted in March.
Due to visa issues that have kept him from taking part in pre-season testing, French-Argentine driver Sacha Fenestraz will also miss what was to be his debut race for TGR Team KeePer TOM’s in the #37 KeePer TOM’s Toyota GR Supra as teammate to Ryo Hirakawa.
Fenestraz, last year’s highest-ranked GT500 rookie with four podium finishes, will be replaced by GT300 race winner and reigning Formula Regional Japanese Champion, Sena Sakaguchi.
As a consequence of Sakaguchi moving up to GT500, he will be replaced at his GT300 team K-Tunes Racing by reigning FIA Formula 4 Japanese Champion, 20-year-old Hibiki Taira, making his series debut in their #96 Lexus RC F GT3 – alongside Super GT’s most experienced driver, three-time GT300 champion Morio Nitta.
Among the other changes to the regular GT300 entry list include the anticipated debut of second-generation, French-Japanese driver Giuliano Alesi, driving alongside Sean Walkinshaw at arto Ping An Team Thailand in their #35 Lexus.
Ryuichiro Tomita, who recently tested at Paul Ricard for the upcoming GT World Challenge Europe campaign, is scheduled to race the #48 Nissan GT-R GT3 for NILZZ Racing, joining Yuki Tanaka.
Tomei Sports have nominated 56-year-old gentleman driver Yudai Uchida – a Super Taikyu champion in both the ST-X (GT3) and ST-Z (GT4) classes – to drive alongside Takayuki Aoki in their #360 Nissan.
The last team to officially confirm their 2021 driver lineup was Team Mach: Yuya Hiraki will stay with the team for a fourth season, to be joined by his younger brother, FIA F4 Japanese Championship runner-up Reiji Hiraki. Driving the #5 Mach Syaken GTNET Toyota MC86, they will be the first pair of brothers to race together on the same GT300 team since Haruki and Tsubasa Kurosawa raced together at LEON Racing in 2014.