Ronnie Quintarelli, the most decorated champion in the history of Super GT, was honoured by the Italian Republic with the award of “Official of the Order of the Italian Star”, in recognition for his success as an ambassador to motorsport in Japan.
The “Official of the Order of the Italian Star” is an accolade awarded by the President of the Italian Republic to individuals of merit in a variety of fields. The award was presented to Quintarelli by Italian Ambassador, Domenico Giorgi.
A Nissan driver in Super GT since 2008, Quintarelli is the defending GT500 champion with NISMO, and the only driver in history to win four GT500 championships – within a span of only five years, from 2011 to 2015. He has a very real chance to win his fifth title this season, and with it, would make NISMO the first team to win three consecutive GT500 championships.
Quintarelli notched his twelfth career GT500 race victory in May at the Fuji 500km, tying him for the all-time lead amongst non-Japanese drivers with Ralph Firman and Benoit Treluyer. It is a matter of when, not if, Quintarelli will move past them and become the all-time greatest gaijin driver in Super GT history (if his four GT500 titles did not already cement the designation).
But Quintarelli is also presented this award because of his contributions away from the circuit as well. His contributions to help the victims and the families of those affected by the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region in 2011, are still ongoing over five years later.
“I would like to thank the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella and the Italian Ambassador to Japan, Domenico Giorgi for this unexpected recognition,” Quintarelli said in a press release.
“To receive such an important medal today is a huge honor for me and it is undeniably the result of the firm commitment and strong relationship between myself and the Japanese people. I have achieved four titles in the SUPER GT with Nissan/NISMO but, thanks to the medal I have received today, I want to keep pushing even harder in the best way possible as an Italian racing driver here in Japan.
“In the same way, I will continue to support all of the people in the Tohoku area who continue to suffer from the tragedy of the March 11th, 2011 earthquake. I appreciate the support of the people that have been with me during my career, especially my families in Italy and here in Japan.”
Takao Katagiri, the CEO of Nissan Motorsports International (NISMO), was also on hand for the ceremony, as was Quintarelli’s co-driver, Tsugio Matsuda.
“I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to Ronnie on this occasion,” Katagiri said. “It’s great that our racing partner, Ronnie’s achievements, both on and off the circuit in Japan, are so highly regarded in his native Italy. Ronnie has already won four series titles in the SUPER GT as a Nissan / NISMO driver. This year, alongside his teammate, Tsugio Matsuda, Ronnie and the NISMO team are attempting to achieve an unprecedented three straight consecutive championships.”
“I believe that being awarded this accolade will further add to his momentum and by the end of the season we will have even more happy news to send over to Italy. I sincerely hope that Ronnie’s continued competition as the Italian champion in Japan will bring our two countries even closer together.”