One of the most prominent names in Japanese motorsport is set to make their return to the premier class of the Autobacs Super GT Series. According to a report in the November 18, 2016 issue of auto sport Magazine, Team Mugen will return to GT500 competition in 2017, replacing Drago Modulo Honda Racing’s vacated entry.
Mugen last competed in Super GT in the GT300 class from 2012 to 2014, where they introduced the Honda CR-Z GT300 Hybrid to competition. Since their last departure from Super GT, Team Mugen has competed exclusively in Super Formula.
The news follows a statement from Honda representative Masashi Yamamoto that the company will continue to field five GT500 teams in 2017.
From 1997 to 2003, Mugen Motorsports formed one half of the Mugen x Dome Project, Honda’s flagship GT500 team in partnership with car constructors Dome Co. Ltd.
It was in 2000 that the Castrol Mugen NSX claimed Honda’s very first Super GT championship, with Ryo Michigami winning the GT500 Drivers’ Championship, partnered over the course of the season by co-drivers Osamu Nakako and Hidetoshi Mitsusada. Michigami, Nakako, and Katsutomo Kaneishi also won the 1999 International Suzuka 1000km, Honda’s first-ever victory in the event.
They also competed in the GT300 class under the M-TEC name from 2004 to 2005, following the company’s restructuring in early 2004. Tetsuya Yamano and Hiroyuki Yagi won the 2004 GT300 Drivers’ Championship in the M-TEC Honda NSX.
Mugen returned in 2012, again to GT300, with the new Honda CR-Z GT300 hybrid. In 2013, the Mugen CR-Z of Yuhki Nakayama and Hideki Mutoh won the GT300 Drivers’ Championship, the first for a hybrid car in Super GT history.
That same year, Naoki Yamamoto won the 2013 Super Formula Drivers’ Championship for Mugen, where the team have continued to compete with Yamamoto as their only driver.
Mugen are perhaps best known for their tenure as a Formula 1 engine builder from 1992 to 2000, supplying Footwork, Lotus, Ligier, Prost, and Jordan, and winning four races in their tenure. They were the exclusive engine supplier of Formula Nippon until 2005, and continue to build engines for the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship.
Yamamoto stated that official confirmation of Drago Modulo’s replacement would hopefully be made before the end of 2016, and it would be made absolutely no later than February 2016 at Honda’s global motorsport conference – but everything now points to a triumphant return for Team Mugen to GT500.