Tomei Sports is giving 23-year-old rookie driver Shota Kiyohara another chance to drive their number 360 RunUp Group & DOES Nissan GT-R at the upcoming Super GT race at Sportsland Sugo.
Kiyohara, who was nominated as the RunUp & DOES GT-R’s third driver for the long-distance races of the 2016 season, was consistently the team’s fastest driver at last weekend’s test at Suzuka Circuit, outpacing regular drivers Yusaku Shibata and Atsushi Tanaka, the latter by several seconds a lap. While it went lesser noticed in the two days of testing, the team were impressed enough by Kiyohara’s form to give him at least one additional race.
Tanaka, the owner of RunUp Sports and the Forset automotive group, and who effectively serves as an owner-driver of the number 360 car, will stand down from the cockpit to give Kiyohara his Sugo GT debut.
Kiyohara is a former member of the Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP), the company’s young driver programme that now serves as a junior team for aspiring Formula 1 drivers from Japan. He is a former race winner in Formula Challenge Japan, and raced from 2013 to 2014 in the All-Japan Formula 3 Series.
On a limited schedule in 2012, Kiyohara even competed in the Formula Pilota China series – whose champion that year, some will recall, was a single-seater rookie named Antonio Giovinazzi, the top rookie in the GP2 Series this year. Kiyohara swept all three races of the opening round at Shanghai, finishing seventh in the standings despite running just six of a possible eighteen races!
Kiyohara helped pilot the RunUp & DOES GT-R to a sixteenth-place finish in the GT300 category at the Fuji 500km in his Super GT debut. He’s a very under-the-radar young talent that’s starting to make a serious name for himself in Super GT with one of the smallest, yet most dedicated teams on the grid.