On Sunday before the fifth round of the Autobacs Super GT Series at Fuji Speedway, GT-Association (GTA) president Masaaki Bandoh held his usual pre-race press conference to discuss recent events and upcoming developments in the Super GT series.
Among the items of discussion were the balance of power between FIA GT3 and JAF-GT cars in the GT300 category, as well as talk of adding a second race to the calendar outside of Japan, with Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia and the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore among those up for consideration.
Sepang, Singapore leading offers for additional flyaway round
Bandoh confirmed that the GTA is in preliminary talks to add a second round to the championship held outside of Japan. Currently, the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand hosts the series’ lone flyaway race.
Right now, the top offer comes from Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, which previously hosted a Super GT championship race from 2002 to 2013 (excluding 2003). It is the current home of the Malaysian Grands Prix for both Formula 1 and MotoGP. Sepang is under renovations as it prepares for this year’s F1 and MotoGP events – and those would add additional incentive to their bid for a Super GT return.
There are also offers from Johor Circuit in Malaysia, and a planned FIA Grade 2 circuit to be constructed in Pattaya, Thailand – though currently, these seem to be very long shots.
By far the most compelling option on the table is from Singapore – which hosts the F1 Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, F1’s inaugural night time race. Should Singapore win the bid, it would run as part of the Singapore GP event, similar to the Australian Supercars exhibition races at Albert Park Street Circuit during the F1 Australian GP. With races at temporary street circuits banned in Japan, a street race in Singapore would be a first for Super GT.
Bandoh said that arranging a second international date would be difficult when considering the traditional break to allow drivers to race the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the logistics in getting teams to other countries.
No plans to hinder JAF-GT cars in GT300
Bandoh says that there are “no plans to stop the evolution of JAF-GT” cars in GT300, in the wake of a recent Balance of Performance change before the Fuji 300km race that raised the minimum ground clearance and shrunk the fuel flow restrictors for JAF-GT specification cars. He adds that BoP is necessary to keep JAF-GT and FIA GT3 cars on a level playing field.
Gainer team engineer Yosuke Fukuda had also spoken out about the JAF-GT/FIA GT3 balance after the Sugo GT event, calling the weight difference between the two categories a “fatal problem” in the BoP.
Pre-qualifying under consideration for 2017
Bandoh is consulting with teams about introducing a pre-qualifying session for GT300 in case the entry list exceeds 45 cars for any event – such as at Sportsland SUGO, which can support only a maximum of 43 entries.
Pre-qualifying is best remembered from its use in Formula 1, where the lowest-ranked teams would take part in a session and the top four cars would go on to the next phase of qualifying.
Two weeks ago, Dijon Racing appointed NISMO factory driver Mitsunori Takaboshi to drive their #48 Nissan GT-R in place of Hiroshi Takamori. Takamori told AUTOSPORTweb that the move was made in preparation for the potential introduction of a pre-qualifying system, which is now concretely on the table from the GTA – but nothing official as of yet.
And about that Sugo finish
Bandoh said that as a racing promoter, he wanted to see the Sugo GT 300km Race restarted with five laps remaining after a red flag for Shinnosuke Yamada’s heavy crash at the 110R corner. However, given the damage to the tyre barriers after the accident, the decision to red flag the race was inevitable.