With the Super GT Championships kicking off each year around April, Tokyo Auto Salon is scheduled at the perfect time off-season for competitors to showcase their 2019 season winning cars, as well as their new 2020 builds. One of the main reasons I attended the Salon this year was to get a closer look.
The 27th annual Super GT Championship series (15th annual under the Super GT name) starts off April 11th at Okayama Circuit and once again has 8 races for the 2020 calendar, however this year sees the return of the series to Malaysia at the Sepang International Circuit – first time since 2013! I’m looking forward to this season and towards the end of last year took some steps to be a little more involved in Super GT going forward; we’ll see how that pans out.
Picking up where we left off in the first post (which was more of an overview of my trip) we’re back in the hall and looking at just the race cars this time. I wasn’t able to get a look at all the Super GT cars on display, nor was I able to take a photos of all of them, but I’m pretty satisfied with what I got to see in my short time there.
The #96 K-Tunes RC-F GT3 at the Project Mu booth. I remember the first RC-F GT3 Concept being unveiled at the LA Auto show years ago (I think 2014), and being blown away by how great it looked. Not much has changed as the current iteration is just as amazing. With Morio Nitta, and Sena Sakaguchi behind the wheel, K-Tunes experienced a great season in 2019 finishing just 14 points shy of first place in GT300.
The Bridgestone booth had installed some amazing lighting to showcase the #37 KeePer/TOM’s LC500. Last year my boy Nick Cassidy and teammate Ryo Hirakawa drove their hearts out for an amazing GT500 championship win.
Off the grid, Nick Cassidy (alongside Jenson Button – swoon…) did a lot to advocate for the international streaming of Super GT races as well, and may have played a part with the signing of streaming rights to Motorsport.TV. The entities provisioning the broadcast of Super GT in Japan are notorious for being stringent with the broadcasting rights; most likely due to monetary reasons. Regardless though, it prohibits the world from seeing some of the best racing on the planet.
Anyway, I hope we see a return of the duo for 2020 and I hope they keep advocating for public, international broadcasting of the series.
One of only a handful of the 2020 development cars on display was the #99 Honda NSX-GT. I must have passed by the Honda booth at a great time because not that many people were around it. In fact, now that I think of it, not many people were around the race car displays at all.
The carbon work on the development cars is amazing and just once I wish that some team would just decide to campaign the car as is!
Enkei Wheels had the #25 Hoppy 86 MC GT300 car on deck in all it’s pink and white glory. Campaigned by Tsuchiya Engineering, the 86 performed about as well as it has throughout it’s entire career with the team last year. Up until 2017, Tsuchiya Engineering was teamed with VIVAC (think Fire Ando’s original livery) as they co-campaigned the car in GT300. 2018 saw a split and the team campaigned on their own with new drivers with Takeshi Tsuchiya still at the helm.
The team director, Tsuchiya, actually was a driver up until 2016 – how great of a progression is that. I’m sure retiring from driving to become a team director is ideal for most people that have careers in motor sport.
Anyway, the car has never really seen much success since winning the GT300 title in 2016 with Tsuchiya behind the wheel, but it has been consistently mid-pack over the past 3 years – which is commendable. Let’s see what 2020 holds.!
The 2020 debut of the Saitama Toyopet GB GR Supra GT300. Green Brave campaigned the Prius up until the introduction of the GR Supra for 2020. A lot of teams moving to entirely new platforms for this season should make things really interesting.
One of my favorite cars, teams, and drivers in the GT300 class was also in attendance at the Lotus booth where I was so graciously given a fancy Lotus pen (for filling out a survey of course). The #2 SYNTIUM Apple Lotus driven by the one and only Hiroki Katoh, ASM S2000 driver extraordinare, and his team mate Kazuho Takahashi. So, I don’t know if any other team can boast this (not sure it’s really even a boast with their record), but these two drivers have been teammates for over 14 years now. How crazy is that? Also, how cool is that. Imagine making a career out of sharing a race car with your friend. I have, it’s all my friends and I do. Hiroki and Kazuho are literally living the dream. Hiroki himself, alone, has driven 20 seasons of Super GT!
However, despite the Cars Tokai Dream 28 team having such an immense amount of experience and talent, they’re among the most losingest teams in GT300 over the past few years. They’re almost like the Williams of Super GT.
Despite that though, the still hold a place in my heart. It’s unique, it’s amazing looking, the team has really cool history, and I think it’s cool that I’m friends with a Super GT driver…that’s about all the reasoning I need.
I really wanted to get more photos of the fan favorite #100 Raybrig NSX GT of Team Kunimitsu but I think I was passing by a few minutes before the Raybrig girls were going to do their thing. So naturally there were a gripppp of people around the display – this is the best I could manage.
This is the teams 2018 car – last season they wore the #1 number in GT500. Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto have piloted it for the past two years and have had some of the best chemistry between two mates I think in the entire series. You could tell both of them were just absolutely loving it.
They had a good race in Fuji last year, finishing third, but overall weren’t able to do well in the season. Tadasuke Makino will take Jenson’s place alongside Naoki for 2020 as Jenson is off driving in the desert or some shit.
I was genuinely taken aback when I saw this car. The 2003 Motul Pitwork GT-R is a car that is most likely familiar to us all thanks to the Gran Turismo franchise. Aside from that, though, this car has quite a bit of history. 2003 was the last year Nissan commissioned the R34 GTR for JGTC as they switched to the Z chassis in 2004.
It’s just so awesome to see a car like this in person – it was a hallmark of the golden age of for our generation’s racing in Japan. Masami Kageyama and Richard Lyons drove the car in it’s last season of racing, and the duo ended up third in the driver’s ranking.