Audi Sport Team Hitotsuyama have announced that former NISMO GT500 driver Masataka Yanagida will join Ulsterman Richard Lyons in their Audi, confirming there is a free seat in GT500 which will almost certainly be taken by Jann Mardenborough.
The 37 year old from Tokyo is one of the most successful drivers in Super GT, having won both GT500 and GT300 twice. He won all of his championships in Nissans, and has raced them since 2001 in JAF’s premier GT series. He arguably has ties with Nissan than go further back than any other manufacturer, as his father, Haruhito, was a prominent Nissan works driver in the 70s and 80s. However its has became clear recently that GT academy protege Jann Mardenborough was likely to race in Super GT in 2017, and that Yanagida would be dropped to make space for the Welshman.
The 27 year old has already announced he will race in Super Formula this year, which shares weekends with Super GT. This is after Mardenborough was unable to make the step all the way up to Formula 1. It appears that recently Nismo have been trying to ‘use’ Mardenborough more as he has no other commitments. Last year he raced in GT300 in a Nissan GT-R GT3, however he, alongside Kazuki Hoshino, was unable to beat the team apr Prius and VivaC 86 to the title.
During the past 6 days pre-season testing has been going on at Sepang. It resumed on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to allow drivers from the Bathurst 12 hours to take part. Kondo Racing topped Wednesday’s session, however the au Lexus set the overall quickest time on Sunday, the second day. Few GT300 cars took part but a Toyota 86 in the hands of Yukhi Nakayama, without a team specified, set the quickest time, a 2:00.807, which is significantly faster than the GT3 cars set at the Sepang 12 hours.