GT300’s titans still looking for their first Suzuka victories

Morio Nitta, Shinichi Takagi, and Nobuteru Taniguchi are the three winningest drivers in the history of Super GT’s GT300 category. Together, they combine for 51 wins, 130 total podium finishes, and six GT300 Drivers’ Championships over a cumulative 52 seasons in the Sanbyaku class.

But like Satoshi Motoyama and his quest to win his first Suzuka 1000km, these three titans of the GT300 class are all bafflingly missing a victory in the great race.

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Nitta, the “Iron Man of GT300”, is nowhere near slowing down – not even a half-year out from his 50th birthday. He’s picked up three top-ten finishes to start the season for the JMS LM Corsa team and their new Ferrari 488 GT3.

And the man who’s won more races in GT300 than any other driver has five podiums at the Suzuka 1000km, including four second-place finishes – but is still chasing down his first victory.

Notable near misses include 2007 and 2009 with Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA), and most recently in 2014 with apr Racing in their Toyota Prius GT.

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Nitta spent over a decade with one co-driver: Shinichi Takagi, who took sole posession of 2nd on the all-time GT300 wins list at the last round at Fuji Speedway. But none of his seventeen victories have come at the Suzuka 1000km.

In addition to the near-misses with Nitta, Takagi has also seen his dreams of a Suzuka victory evaporate two times in the last five years: First in 2011 when the engine let go spectacularly in his ARTA Garaiya, then in 2014, when his ARTA CR-Z crawled to an agonizing stop with eight laps to go and the leader in sight (and ironically, promoting his former running mate to 2nd).

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Of the three titans, Nobuteru Taniguchi is the undisputed most popular driver in the category, arguably throughout all of Super GT. He’s also the only one of the three that’s raced in the Suzuka 1000km in the GT500 class – on his debut outing, way back in 2002.

The records show that Taniguchi’s lone podium in the 1000km came in 2006 for Direxiv Motorsport before the team suddenly quit the sport after the race.

Seven years later, his Hatsune Miku BMW Z4 finished second in class on the road after a hard fight with the Subaru R&D Sport BRZ, but an unapproved air restrictor invalidated the result entirely. “NOB” has won sixteen GT300 races, two GT300 championships, but never the Suzuka 1000km.

All three will be seeking their first Suzuka 1000km class victories next weekend, but who among them will stand out in an ultra-competitive field?

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