During a busy weekend of racing, our coverage of the Motegi GT Grand Final got compromised a bit by a combination of real-life work commitments and a general lack of sleep.
To make up for that, here’s the miscellaneous news and notes from Friday’s manufacturer press conference, Saturday’s GT-Association press conference with president Masaaki Bandoh, and everything else that wouldn’t fit into the rest of our coverage.
Also, enjoy this picture of Bandoh with the lovable bear Kumamon, in attendance for the weekend as a goodwill ambassador for Kumamoto Prefecture.
Official attendance for the weekend was 59,500 spectators – an increase of 19 percent from the 2015 Motegi GT 250km Race (50,000 weekend attendance). 23,500 attended Saturday’s Round 3 action, while 36,000 were in attendance for Sunday.
- Friday saw the public unveiling of the 2017 GT500 cars: The Lexus LC 500, the Honda NSX-GT, and the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 were all on display at Twin Ring Motegi.
- To reveal the new cars, GTA president Bandoh held a press conference, joined by representatives from all three manufacturers: Keizo Takahashi (Toyota), Masashi Yamamoto (Honda), and Takao Katagiri (Nissan).
- During the conference, Yamamoto of Honda confirmed that there will be five Honda teams competing in GT500 in 2017, and that he hopes to announce the replacement team for Drago Modulo Honda Racing before the end of the 2016 calendar year. Official confirmation of the fifth team will be made by absolutely no later than February during Honda’s annual global motorsport press conference.
- And in an interview with Kunihiko Akai of Motorsport.com conducted after the race weekend, Takahashi of Toyota says that there may be some changes in the 2017 Lexus GT500 driver lineup. Announcements will be made in February, during Toyota’s global motorsport press conference – but it is often customary that Toyota will shuffle their GT500 driver roster on a year-to-year basis.
- As expected, the final round at Twin Ring Motegi will consist of a single race in 2017. But in his Saturday press conference, Bandoh says that he is open to hosting future double-header race weekends in the future, if the past weekend’s Grand Final proved popular (from our vantage point, it was most certainly that!)
- Should that happen, Bandoh says he is open to increasing the points available by up to 150 percent (i.e. 30 points for a win instead of 20), but would not go so far as to make it a double points event ala the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship finale.
- GT500 in 2017: Bandoh says that the new GT500 cars will be, on average, 1 to 2 seconds slower on average than the current generation cars. That comparative performance is on target with the GTA’s expectations, with higher top speeds on the straights, but longer braking distances and slower cornering speed.
- GT300 in 2017: Bandoh is considering the creation of a separate Balance of Performance (BoP) system for the JAF-GT specification cars in GT300 such as the Toyota 86 MC and Subaru BRZ. He also reinforces that he does not want Super GT to impose technical restrictions on the GT300 class, prefering to balance the field by way of BoP.
- Finally, Bandoh expects the 2017 Buriram Super GT Race in Thailand to be held as expected, even after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October. In Thailand, mourning periods up to a year in length can affect major sporting events in the Kingdom.
- It is very likely that J Sports pit reporter Amie Izawa will not be returning to live coverage of the series for 2017, after her contract ran out at the end of the 2016 season. She had partnered veteran pit reporter Jiro Takahashi for the past three seasons. Fluent in Japanese, English, German and French, Izawa earned exceptional praise from fans for more than just her beauty, but also for her knowledgeable reporting and enthusiasm for the series.
- In addition to the Lexus RC-F’s farwell races in GT500, it was also the last races for the “Mark I” Lexus RC-F GT3, used by LM Corsa (Akira Iida/Hiroki Yoshimoto/Dominik Farnbacher) in the last two seasons. The 2017 Lexus RC-F GT3, which will be fully homologated by the FIA for competition in GT3-compliant events, is currently testing at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for its American competition debut in IMSA.
- Meanwhile, there are two stories that can be strictly filed into the rumour column for now, but seem to be picking up steam for 2017 after being rumoured through a large portion of 2016. First, noted Toyota racing super fan JJ Takanori is reporting that the GTA plans to introduce the Full Course Yellow (FCY) system into Super GT from 2017, with the first test happening in the pre-season at Okayama.
- Second, LM Corsa driver Hiroki Yoshimoto posted in his blog that he expects a larger field of GT300 entrants, and with it, the re-introduction of cars failing to qualify for the race final – particularly at smaller venues such as Sportsland SUGO and Buriram United International Circuit. Teams that are “seeded” based on their 2016 results will be guaranteed to start the races, but for Yoshimoto’s LM Corsa team, which failed to score points in 2016, they would run the risk of failing to qualify in 2017.
Thanks to Japanese Samurai of the Ten-Tenths Motorsport Forum, and to friend of the show Geinou, for providing the translated notes.