At a Honda event at Twin Ring Motegi, Nakajima Racing announced their 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series entry, with Belgium’s Bertrand Baguette returning for his fourth season at the team, now joined by former Autobacs Racing Team Aguri driver Kosuke Matsuura.
Team founder and director Satoru Nakajima was on hand as the team also confirmed that longtime title sponsor Epson will stay with the team, who will continue to use Dunlop tyres in 2017.
Nakajima Racing will now take a re-tooled driver lineup into the 2017 season as the team looks to break out of the longest active run of futility in the GT500 class.
Baguette and Daisuke Nakajima finished as the lowest-ranked driver pairing in the 2016 standings, and Nakajima Racing were last in the 2016 GT500 Teams’ Championship – the fourth straight year that the team and their drivers have occupied the bottom of the standings.
Baguette, who turns 31 next February before the start of next season, returns to Nakajima Racing for his fourth season in Super GT. In three previous seasons, all driving the Epson NSX, the Belgian has scored 23 championship points, and a single podium finish in the 2014 Fuji GT 300km Race.
Before debuting in Super GT in 2014, Baguette was the 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 Series (now Formula V8 World Series) champion, and the co-champion of the 2013 FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers, winning the LMP2 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans the same year.
Matsuura, 37, leaves Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) after six seasons driving for their GT300 and GT500 teams, and will start his fifth full season in GT500 in new surroundings at Nakajima Racing.
Matsuura has one win, two total podiums, and 96 career championship points in his GT500 career, which includes four seasons at ARTA, and three races as a third driver for Team Kunimitsu in 2008 and 2009. He also drove for apr Racing in the GT300 class in 2010, before joining ARTA’s GT300 operation en route to GT500.
Both drivers are also noteworthy for their brief tenures in the IndyCar Series in America: Baguette drove for two seasons in 2010 and 2011, recording a best finish of seventh in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, a race he briefly led in the closing laps. Matsuura drove for four-plus seasons, from 2004 to 2009, winning the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year awards in ’04 driving for Aguri Fernandez Racing.
Electronics manufacturing giant Epson returns for their fourteenth season as the title sponsor of Nakajima Racing’s Honda NSX. Epson have been associated with team director Satoru Nakajima since his days driving in the All-Japan Formula Two Championship in the early 1980s.
In addition, Dunlop return as Nakajima’s tyre supplier for a thirteenth season, having first joined the team in 2005. Since 2011, Nakajima Racing have had an exclusive partnership with Dunlop in the GT500 class.
Next year will be Nakajima Racing’s twentieth season in Super GT, as they look to end a winless drought going back to the end of the 2007 season.