Anticipation is rising for the 2017 Super GT season as more and more teams announce driver lineups and begin testing. Here are all of the stories you may have missed in the past week.
The livery of the Toyota Mark X MC of Super GT newcomers Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave at an opening ceremony held at Fuji Speedway. The colour scheme consists primarily of a dark shade of green with some yellow stripes and gold wheels. It is a colour scheme which is, coincidentally, similar to the estate agent Foxton’s. The team also announced that Shigekazu Wakisaka (brother of GT500 legend Juichi) will join Taku Bamba and Takayuki Hiranuma for the two longer distance races, the Fuji 500km and Suzuka 1000km. Wakisaka has taken part in over 50 races in both GT500 and GT300, and will probably be considered the quickest and most experienced pilot of the trio.
Hatsune Miku Goodsmile racing also revealed their livery on their Mercedes for their 2017 campaign. Yet again it is a colourful, pink and light green livery depicting popular anime character Hatsune Miku, and yet again could well be considered one of the best liveries in motorsport. The team also revealed a sponsor reward package that is just as insane as the livery! It features just about every piece of merchandise and general Paraphernalia a racing team could possibly offer. The rewards range from model cars and ticket holders to hats and racing jackets.
Some of the sporting regulations have received quite a major shake up, which I’ll try to summarise as succinctly as possible. Here are some of the more minor changes:
- The thirty minute Sunday free practice session has been scrapped in favour of extending the pre-race warm up period from 8 to 12 minutes.
- This has been done so there can be a driver talk show on Sunday morning. Just imagine that in Europe! It says a lot about how well Super GT treat their enormous fan base, and how big a celebrities some of these drivers are in Japan.
- The absolute maximum grid size will be 48 cars, unless the circuit sets a lower target.
- Teams will be limited to two engines per season.
There have been two major changes, first of all in the crucial success ballast system. In GT300, nothing has changed, but in GT500 the system has received a large shake up. Even in GT500, up until a car gets 25 points (and therefore 50kg of ballast) the system from last year remains. But 50kg is now the maximum amount of ballast a GT500 machine can carry. Then, teams start having their fuel flow restrictors shortened, meaning less horsepower but better handling. Cars will have their fuel flow reduced by up to 8kg/h, or 8.5%, at maximum ballast.
The second change is a completely revamped seeding system, and joy of joys, one that most people will be able to understand. For those new to Super GT, the seeding system is in place to select the correct cars to participate if too many cars enter a race. Although it technically applies to both classes, the system is only really relevant to GT300. Category 1 teams, the top 18 finishers in last years GT300 championship, and the entire GT500 field, are practically guaranteed entry to all races. Second priority goes to category 2 international teams such as Toyota Team Thailand, category 3 teams who have been racing in Super GT since at least 2008, and category 4 teams, the best teams based on the 2016 championship seeded until 27 cars are participating in GT500. New entries and those who had very poor 2016 seasons are the lowest priority, and make up categories 5 and 6.
Expect some more changes when JAF announce their final set of regulations.
The circuits at Okayama, Fuji and Motegi have all been hotspots for unofficial testing ahead of the official pre-season test in two weeks time. Nissan and Lexus both brought GT500 cars to Motegi, at a test which the Lexi dominated, setting the 4 quickest lap times. The quickest tour was just 3 tenths off the lap record, somewhat proving JAF’s new technical regulations have failed to slow cars. The 4 Nissans were slower than all 4 Lexi. It is also worth noting that F3 champion Kenta Yamashita got his first taste of a GT500 car.
Toyota also brought a GT300 car apeice for LM corsa and apr, with the Lexus beung the quicker of the two, mostly because the slower #30 Prius was brought to the test. EIcars also brought their brand new Bentley to Motegi, but were slower than both of the Gazoo Racing backed entries.
Finally, Nissan just about won a Super GT World ran twitter poll asking fans which GT500 manufacturer would win in 2017, even if the recent tests appear to suggest otherwise.
Photos courtesy of Autosport web