Toyota and Lexus have announced all their factory backed car and driver combinations for the 2017 Super GT season, in both GT300 and GT500.
Toyota are the second manufacturer to confirm their factory backed programme, in which 10 Gazoo Racing ran cars will run across the 2 categories in 2017, both of which include significant changes. 6 of these cars will be in the GT500 class, of which 4 remain unchanged. All 6 will be Lexus LC500 GT500 cars, which are roughly the same speed as LMP1 cars. These include the reigning champions, the #1 Denso car driven by former F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen, and Kohei Hirate, and the Wako’s car that finished second in the championship. This car will again be piloted by Italian Andrea Calderelli and Kazuki Oshima. The other two cars to remain unchanged will be the Suzuka 1000km winning Zent Cerumo and Wedsport cars, which will both keep their all Japanese lineups. The Wedsport car, driven by the very capable duo of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuji Kunimoto, impressed at the back end of last season and are certainly a car to watch out for. The Zent Cerumo entry struggled for much of the season, apart from their victory at Suzuka, and will hope to improve.
The changes are all in the TOM’s Lexus team. The most notable driver arrival is Kazuki Nakajima. The ex-F1 driver and LMP1 stalwart will drive the au car, and share it with James Rossiter. The Englishman hasn’t had much luck in Super GT recently, despite impressing at the wheel, and will hope to be competitive with Nakajima partnering him. This will not affect his LMP1 or Super Formula commitments. Daisuki Ito will drive the car at the Fuji 500km, while Nakajima has LMP1 commitments, but otherwise the 41 year old will move to managing the au entry. The sextet of GT500 entries will be completed by the KeePer Tom’s car, which will be driven by the remaining returning drivers, Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy. Both drivers have only just turned 23 and are all-Japan formula 3 champions. It is also worth noting Hirakawa could appear in the 3rd Toyota entry at Le Mans this year. There have been no changes to the tires used by any of the cars.
The GT300 class will have 4 factory-backed cars entering, however other Toyotas are going to be racing in the category. Yuchi Nakayama will move over from the Toyota Prius to the #51 LM Corsa Lexus RC F GT3. He will be joined by 21 year old Sho Tsuboi, who is a member of the Toyota Young Driver programme. The #60 RC F retains its rather less youthful driver lineup of Akira Lida and Hiroki Yoshimoto. Driving his 13th season of the Super GT, Yoshimoto will be hoping to finally win a title, now the RC F GT3 is fully developed. The uncompetitive #30 Toyota Prius will retain its Pro-Am lineup, and it will not carry the full hybrid system. Rintaro Kubo will replace Nakayama in the #31 Prius. The 23-year has old done plenty in his short career, but has only had success in single-seaters so far. Expect the returning Koki Saga to qualify the #31 car at first, as team apr push for the title again in the rapid Prius, especially considering how unlucky they have been not to see a title challenge come to fruition.
The list of lineups is as follows:
Lexus Team SARD – #1 Denso Kobelco SARD LC500 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Heikki Kovalainen [Finland] / Kohei Hirate [Japan]
Lexus Team Wako’s LeMans – #6 Wako’s LC500 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Kazuya Oshima [Japan] / Andrea Caldarelli [Italy]
Lexus Team WedsSport BANDOH – #19 WedsSport Advan LC500 [Yokohama]
Drivers: Yuhi Sekiguchi [Japan] / Yuji Kunimoto [Japan]
Lexus Team au TOM’s – #36 au TOM’s LC500 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Kazuki Nakajima [Japan] / James Rossiter [Great Britain]
Lexus Team KeePer TOM’s – #37 KeePer TOM’s LC500 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Ryo Hirakawa [Japan] / Nick Cassidy [New Zealand]
Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo – #38 ZENT Cerumo LC500 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Yuji Tachikawa [Japan] / Hiroaki Ishiura [Japan]
apr Racing – #30 Toyota Prius apr GT [Yokohama]
Drivers: Hiroaki Nagai [Japan] / Kota Sasaki [Japan]
apr Racing – #31 Toyota Prius apr GT [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Koki Saga [Japan] / Rintaro Kubo [Japan]
LM Corsa – #51 JMS P.MU RC F GT3 [Bridgestone]
Drivers: Yuichi Nakayama [Japan] / Sho Tsuboi [Japan]
LM Corsa – #60 Syntium LM Corsa RC F GT3 [Yokohama]
Drivers: Akira Iida [Japan] / Hiroki Yoshimoto [Japan]