Two weeks ago, NASCAR held the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, a crown jewel race whose history predates the Daytona 500. To celebrate the history of the sport, an overwhelming majority of the teams paid tribute with retro-themed liveries, derived from famous cars of years past.
NASCAR sort of got the idea from the Australian Supercars series, which had a throwback race of its own this weekend, the Sandown 500k. And again, a few teams in the field took the opportunity to race with retro liveries and honour the history of the sport.
There is quite a lot of history in the Super GT Series, for the teams, for the drivers, for the legendary figures who help run the sport. Even extending beyond the history of the series itself. And it’d be amazing to see the series use one round to pay tribute to its history with a throwback race of its own, with most of the teams using retro liveries. But what would such a race look like? What would the cars look like?
With some teams being around for far less time than others, and with sponsorship changes throughout the years, this is an exercise in creativity for some teams to find a fitting throwback livery that has some significance to the team, sponsor, or a significant figure in the organization.
Keeping that in mind, as we unveil our choices of liveries for a dream “throwback race” in Super GT, featuring all fifteen GT500 teams.
The instantly-recognizable Pennzoil NISMO Skyline GT-R makes the perfect inspiration for the retro livery of the defending GT500 champions. The R33 Pennzoil Skyline won the title in 1998 with Erik Comas & Masami Kageyama, and Comas successfully defended the title in ’99 with this R34 model.
That said, this one may be hard to pull off with rival motor oil company Motul currently serving as the title sponsor, so the classic blue/white/red Nissan racing livery would also work.
Lexus Team Wako’s LeMans
2016 has been a year of honouring the great Juichi Wakisaka, who won his first GT500 title for Toyota Team LeMans aboard their 2002 Esso Ultraflo Supra. This year, he became the team principal at Team LeMans immediately following his retirement from Super GT racing, and this livery makes a perfect tribute to the boss’s glory years in the series.
Current sponsor Wako’s could do what Arris did with Carl Edwards’ 2016 Darlington throwback and have “WAKO’S Chemical” decorated in the old Esso Ultraflo typeface.
Autobacs Racing Team Aguri
The most obscure throwback selection may be this one for ARTA. It’s a tribute to the 1983 Mooncraft Guppy prototype, one of the first sports cars Aguri Suzuki ever drove – and one that just so happens to be sponsored by his team’s current sponsor Autobacs, in one of their earliest involvements in racing.
A few of the diehard fans, those who fondly recall the eras of the Fuji Grand Championship and JSPC of the ’80s, will really enjoy seeing something inspired by Aguri’s Guppy being run on a 201x ARTA NSX.
If I’m being honest, Calsonic Team Impul are the only team that shouldn’t change their livery for a throwback race. The Calsonic GT-R’s look has gone mostly unchanged in the last 25+ years, and it’s arguably the most iconic livery in the series.
If they had to change it up, the Calsonic-sponsored 1998 Nissan R390 GT1 that finished third overall at Le Mans isn’t a bad source of inspiration, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping the car as it is for the occasion.
Drago Modulo Honda Racing
Drago Modulo Honda Racing have only been around since 2015, but team founder Ryo Michigami’s proudest moment was undoubtedly his championship season in 2000 aboard the Castrol Mugen NSX, which he also drove in ’98 and ’99. Something at least inspired by this awesome and iconic livery would make a fitting tribute to Michigami’s racing career – and it wouldn’t look bad on the current NSX-GT.
This throwback looks nothing like the current Keihin NSX of Real Racing, but this car is an important one for team founder Katsutomo Kaneishi. The JACCS Honda Civic won the 1993 Japanese Touring Car Championship Class 3 title, with Kaneishi partnering Naoki Hattori in a season that saw the legendary EG6 hatchback win its class four times that season.
One thing’s for sure, a JACCS NSX in the same vibrant green/gold/red livery would easily stand out.
Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh
WedsSport and Racing Project BANDOH have a history that dates back to the old Japanese Touring Car Championship in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but Super GT is what they’re best known for – and in 1998, they brought the WedsSport colours to the GT300 class with the famous WedsSport Celica.
This example, driven here by future Daytona 24 Hour winner Max Angelelli, would be a cool livery to see back on the #19 car – now a full-on GT500 machine.
Masahiko Kondo’s team doesn’t have as long a history as many of the others on this list, but the rock star, turned racer, turned team principal did have some success as a driver in his day. In 1995, Kondo helped drive this Nissan Skyline GT-R to tenth place overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The colours aren’t too dissimilar to those of his current Forum Engineering GT-R, either.
Lexus Team au TOM’s / Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo
Fifteen years ago, au KDDI sponsored the Toyota Team Cerumo Supra, driven by Hironori Takeuchi and Yuji Tachikawa to the 2001 GT500 Championship. That same year, ZENT sponsored the #37 Toyota Team TOM’s Supra, driven to a victory at Sportsland SUGO by Wayne Gardner and the late Shinichi Yamaji.
Today, au is with TOM’s on the #36 car, ZENT is with Cerumo’s #38. This will be a controversial choice to leave off the iconic Castrol TOM’s Supra livery in favour of this “sponsor swap” idea, but not only would both liveries look great on a current-generation Lexus GT500 car, but it serves as a double tribute, with the #36 car paying homage to the title-winning au Cerumo Supra, and the #38 serving as a remembrance of Yamaji, who passed away in 2014.
Lexus Team KeePer TOM’s
That said, it’d be really harsh to not have any homage to the Castrol TOM’s Supra on the grid – it was, after all, Toyota’s first GT500 race winner in 1995, and their first champion in 1997 with Pedro de la Rosa and Michael Krumm. They even ran a #37 Castrol TOM’s Supra in ’97 for Masanori Sekiya and Toshio Suzuki. That’s the number of the current KeePer RC-F.
At the very least, the red and green lines of Castrol can be changed to blue and gold for KeePer ProShop, while maintaining the instantly-recognizable pattern of the original.
Lexus Team Denso SARD
Denso and Lexus Team SARD have a long, long history together that predates Super GT. In 1991, a Denso-sponsored Dome/Toyota 91C-V won the Suzuka 1000km for Toyota Team SARD. The drivers were Pierre Henri-Raphanel, Naoki Nagasaka, and Roland Ratzenberger.
This retro Denso livery would be a fitting homage to the Denso SARD racing history, while also serving as a tribute to a fallen Grand Prix folk hero in Ratzenberger – who made his living as one of the best racers competing in Japan.
The striking pewter and red Dream Cube’s Advan Z was MOLA’s first car in the Super GT series. Kazuki Hoshino and Takayuki Aoki drove this car to a win at Motegi and 5th in the GT300 championship in MOLA debut season in 2005. It’s not that far of a throwback compared to some of the others, but it’s still a magnificent-looking livery with its mosaic snakeskin-like pattern.
Satoru Nakajima was the first full-time F1 driver from Japan. And while his success was marginal at best on the traditional measuring stick, the five-time Japanese Top Formula champion was beloved back home – and he often saved his best performances for the home crowd at Suzuka.
The bright gold livery from his days at Team Lotus (1987-89) would look exceptional on a modern day Honda NSX, even without the Camel branding (for obvious reasons).
2016 just happens to be the 20th season of Raybrig’s title sponsorship of Team Kunimitsu. It’s the 20th anniversary season (there is a difference between the two) of Team Kunimitsu bringing Honda to the GT500 class.
Raybrig, Honda, and Kunimitsu first came together in the 1996 Suzuka 1000km, where the team were a wildcard entry in what was then a BPR Global GT Series event. This first Raybrig NSX livery is one of several ideas available to honour the career of Kunimitsu Takahashi, with his 1970s Nissan Skyline GT-R touring car racers and his 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans class winning NSX also good ideas.