VivaC Team Samurai lead driver and team director, Takeshi Tsuchiya, will no longer be driving full-time for his organization after the conclusion of the 2016 Autobacs Super GT Series.
In an interview with Ryuji Hirano of AUTOSPORTweb, Tsuchiya was quoted as saying that he is stepping down from his full-time driving duties, in order to focus on the engineering and management side of the organization, while making room for the younger generation of drivers.
Staying true to that theme, Tsuchiya announced that Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita will drive the #25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC full-time next season.
While Tsuchiya will no longer serve as the lead driver of the VivaC 86, he has stated that he is not retiring from racing – and in fact, will serve as the team’s third driver for long-distance events in 2017.
Tsuchiya has 138 career starts over 21 seasons since 1996, with most of his success coming in the GT300 class, where he is a five-time race winner with twelve total podium finishes and three pole positions. His most recent win came last year at Sportsland Sugo, where he and Matsui won the first race for the GT300 Mother Chassis platform.
He also raced in GT500 in 1996, 1998, and from 2000 to 2009, scoring eight podium finishes and two pole positions in the top division before moving back down to GT300 and taking control of the team professionally known as Tsuchiya Engineering, established by Takeshi’s father, Haruo. He also won the Tokachi 24 Hour N1 endurance race in 2000.
For 2017, Matsui will return for his third Super GT season with VivaC Team Samurai. The 28-year-old sophomore has shown marked improvement in his second season, where he and Tsuchiya currently hold fifth in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship on the strength of two podium finishes.
Last year, Matsui picked up his first career Super GT victory at Sugo, and he returned to the circuit the following year to score his first pole position lap in Q2.
Matsui will be partnered by 21-year-old Yamashita, the newly-crowned 2016 All-Japan Formula Three Champion, previously a two-time runner up in 2014 and 2015, and a top prospect of the Toyota Young Driver Programme (TDP).
Yamashita drove for VivaC Team Samurai this year, in a one-off at the 45th International Suzuka 1000km, and drove full-time for Excellence Porsche Team KTR last season.