Team Mugen confirm 2017 GT500 entry with Mutoh, Nakajima

Honda announced today at an event at Twin Ring Motegi that Team Mugen will return to the Autobacs Super GT Series in 2017, fielding a brand-new Honda NSX-GT running on Yokohama Advan tyres, and driven by former Drago Modulo Honda Racing driver Hideki Mutoh, and second-generation driver Daisuke Nakajima.

After weeks of speculation that Mugen would make their return to the series after two years’ absence, their entry was confirmed, replacing the Drago Modulo team that suspended operations at the end of the 2016 season.

Mugen made their debut in the series in 1997, as one half of the Mugen x Dome Project with the famous Japanese car constructor Dome. They were Honda’s first flagship team, going on to win the 2000 JGTC GT500 Championship with lead driver Ryo Michigami.

They also had success in two different stints in GT300, winning the second-class titles in 2004 and again in 2013, before withdrawing as a stand-alone team at the end of the 2014 season. Since their last withdrawal at the end of ’14, Mugen Power have provided technical maitenance to Team Kunimitsu.

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© Ryuji Hirano / AUTOSPORTweb

Mutoh, 34, was part of Mugen’s 2013 GT300 championship team, driving their Honda CR-Z GT Hybrid to the overall title. He will be competing in his eighth Super GT season, and his sixth in GT500, having previously driven for Nakajima Racing (2006), Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (2011), Team Kunimitsu (2014), Real Racing (2015), and Drago Modulo Honda Racing (2016).

Mutoh was also the 2008 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year for Andretti Autosport, and raced for three-plus seasons in North America before returning to Japan full-time.

The Tokyo native has one win, four podiums, and one pole position in the GT500 class, setting the official lap record at Suzuka Circuit this August during qualifying for the 45th International Suzuka 1000km. His best finish in 2016 was second at Buriram United International Circuit, Thailand.

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© Ryuji Hirano / AUTOSPORTweb

Nakajima, 27, made his Super GT debut with Team Mugen in 2012 with Mutoh as his co-driver, and has driven in GT500 for four seasons, all with Nakajima Racing, the team owned and operated by his father Satoru Nakajima.

Daisuke’s older brother, Kazuki, is a former Super GT and Formula 1 driver, currently driving for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

In five seasons of Super GT, the younger Nakajima has one podium a piece in both GT500 and GT300 categories, and in 2016, scored a best finish of fifth place in the Epson NSX, also at Buriram.

Nagataka Tezuka, who has served as director of Team Mugen’s Super Formula operation since 2010, will assume the same role of team director with Team Mugen in Super GT. Tezuka oversaw Naoki Yamamoto’s successful championship campaign in the 2013 Super Formula Championship.

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© Ryuji Hirano / AUTOSPORTweb

It was also confirmed that Team Mugen will use Yokohama tyres in 2017, giving Yokohama at least one representative amongst the three GT500 manufacturers – Nissan, Lexus, and now Honda.

It is the first time that a GT500-class NSX will run Yokohama tyres since 1996, when Team Kunimitsu fielded a Honda NSX GT2 with title sponsorship from Advan, the first-ever Honda NSX to race in the series.

French oil company Motul carry over their prominent sponsorship from Mugen’s Super Formula operation, having also served as a major sponsor of NISMO in Super GT since 2003.

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