One of Super GT’s longest-serving owner/drivers has announced that he is hanging up the helmet after sixteen seasons. 54-year-old Tetsuji Tamanaka announced in the latest issue of auto sport Magazine that he will retire from Super GT as a driver, to focus on preparing the team’s 2017 entry in the series.
A successful businessman off the track, Tamanaka has been racing for twenty-four years in total, making his single-seater debut in 1992, racing in FJ1600 and Formula Toyota, before graduating to the Formula Nippon championship (now Super Formula) in 1996.
Tamanaka drove in Formula Nippon for six seasons, most with the Takagi B-1 Racing Team, failing to score a championship point from 1996 to 2001.
After the 2001 season, Tamanaka retired from Formula Nippon and made the All-Japan GT Championship his sole focus, debuting in the sixth round of the season at Suzuka Circuit.
In 2002, Tamanaka drove a Mosler MT900 designed in the same livery as the famous Mach 5 from the animated series Mach GoGoGo (known elsewhere as Speed Racer). It was a special arrangement to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original series – and this was the origins of the present-day Team Mach, which was established in 2004.
In 2003, Tamanaka founded Mach Co. Ltd, an automotive support company offering vehicle inspection, sales, painting, and even a line of service stations – and continued to serve as Team Mach’s ace driver for much of the next twelve years.
Much of Tamanaka and Team Mach’s success came fielding the mid-engined Vemac RD320R from 2003 to 2011. They’ve also run the Vemac RD408R, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, Nissan GT-R GT3 NISMO, and most recently, the Dome-constructed Toyota 86 MC.
Tamanaka scored two GT300 podium finishes, first at Sugo in 2003, where he finished a career-best second place, then again at Sepang Circuit in Malaysia in 2004, finishing third. He also scored pole position in the GT300 class for the 2004 Suzuka 1000km, a non-championship event.
In 113 career races from 2001 to 2016, all in GT300, Tamanaka scored 122 career points with 27 top ten finishes. His best result in the championship was tenth place in 2004.
Tamanaka has announced that Team Mach will continue their racing activities in 2017, with a different driver lineup. In 2016, Junichiro Yamashita and former GT500 Champion Masami Kageyama also drove for Team Mach alongside and in place of Tamanaka.