On Sunday, GT Association (GTA) Chairman Masaaki Bandoh delivered his customary Super GT pre-race press conference to members of the media from Sugo. While answering a question about the possibility of extending race distances in 2022, Chairman Bandoh said that he is giving some thought to reviving the series’ former crown jewel endurance event, the Suzuka 1000 Kilometres, in the summer of 2022.
“We have heard that the Suzuka 10 Hours race will not be held next year, so we will have to think about how to envisage a 1000km race at Suzuka in mid-summer,” said Chairman Bandoh. “However, no decision has been made yet.”
The Suzuka 1000km was held 46 times between 1966 until 2017, as a stand-alone event and across a number of different championships – the All-Japan Endurance/Sports Prototype Championship, the FIA GT Championship, and from 2006 until 2017, the Autobacs Super GT Series.
From 2018 to 2019, the event was reformatted into the Suzuka 10 Hours as part of the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge, with the aim of expanding and extending the legacy of the Suzuka Summer Endurance Race.
But since the novel coronavirus pandemic came into being, the Suzuka 10 Hours has been cancelled in 2020, 2021, and the event was not on the Japan Automobile Federation’s provisional motorsports calendar for 2022.
All the while, many Super GT fans have been hoping that the original 1000km would return, headlined by the GT500 class vehicles. Suzuka Circuit will host two Super GT races in 2022, including one on 28 August – the traditional calendar slot once occupied by the 1000km/10 Hours.
Though, as Bandoh himself pointed out, multiple items need to be addressed before moving forward with the proposal of reviving Japan’s oldest endurance sports car race, in its original format.
Bandoh has recently spoken about the idea of extending the race distances for all “standard” Super GT events starting in 2022, in order to encourage the development of more efficient engines with the aim of sustainability.
“We will make a decision [on the distance and format of races] based on how many spectators we can accomodate,” said Bandoh.
“Regarding the actual distance of each race, I think that is what the event organisers want. But we will continue to discuss that going forward.”
“For example, if we were to run a 1000km race at Suzuka, we would have to consider the tyre manufacturers’ needs, the costs, and other restrictions – such as the limit of two engines per season. In GT500, teams can make do with the limit of two engines per year. But in GT300 we have to use them all up, so we have to think about when to overhaul them.”
“I want to think hard in that area, before coming to a conclusion.”