11 drivers have been added to the 2017 Super GT entry list, completing the roster of 45 cars and 90 drivers piloting full time. This announcement includes plenty of new faces we can expect to see in the Super GT paddock for 2017.
Of these drivers, 4 of these are series rookies and all 4 are exciting prospects. However, not all of the announcements are particularly surprising. JLOC confirm an unchanged lineup for the 2017 season. Fan favourite and Super GT legend Manabu Orido will yet again join newly crowned Super Taikyu champion Kazuki Hiramine in the MANEPA #88 car, while we will see former GT500 front runner Shinya Hosokawa and Auto GP champion Kimiya Sato in the newly sponsored #87 Shop Channel Lamborghini.
Hiroshi Takamori and Masaki Tanaka will drive pinkzilla, the Dijon Racing ran GT-R. The only slight plot twist is that the #48 Nissan is listed without a sponsor and may not end up being painted pink, meaning there may not be a single pink car on the grid for 2017. At Tomei Sport, Yusaka Shibata will join Atsushi Tanaka in the yellow and white GT-R known as ‘Bumblebee’.
The other 4 drivers are 4 rather exciting rookies. Team Mach have decided to sign two 21 year olds to drive their Toyota 86 MC. The first of the young duo is Natsu Sakaguchi, who was a promising karting driver and was signed for the Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP). however he stopped racing in 2015, and this will be his first taste of racing since then. Their second driver will be Kiyoto Fujinami, a Nissan Driver Development Program (NDDP) prospect, who has spent his last two years plying his trade in Super Taikyu. He will now step up to Super GT, and expect him to be watched carefully.
22 year old Australian Jake Parsons will join Shinnosuke Yamada in the Taisan Audi R8. This will be his first venture into GT racing, after successful seasons in Formula Masters China and Pro Mazda. This strong lineup for them Taisan could elevate them up the field after a promising, but not front running 2016.
However, last but not least it has been announced new Porsche factory driver Sven Muller will join the already announced Tomonobu Fujii in the D’station Porsche. Muller managed to win the Porsche Supercup and the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany last year, impressing Porsche, who added the 25 year old German to their roster. He has been in great form lately, impressing at both Daytona and Dubai, and this signing will surely give the D’station team a shot at the title.
It is unclear, however, how the man from Mainz’s programme will work. He has already been confirmed in the ADAC GT Masters and although he hasn’t been confirmed in the WEC it seems likely he will race there. Assuming GT Masters and WEC are his priorities, Muller will miss both of the rounds at Fuji Speedway. Even if he doesn’t race in the WEC the 300km round clashes with the GT masters round at the Nurburgring. One thing that is clear though, is that is the most exciting, significant announcement to come out of the new entry list.
Or is it…
Earlier this morning Toyota announced that Kamui Kobayashi will take part in his first Super GT round at the final Suzuka 1000km. The former F1 favourite will join Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuji Kunimoto in the GT500 WedsSport Lexus for the 6 hour race. Weather or not this means Kobayashi will have a more prominent role in the not too distant future is unknown, however.
Pre-Season testing is now less than a fortnight away, and with the entry list confirmed anticipation for the start of the season is rising at a rate of knots.