The third championship for VivaC Team Tsuchiya was the coming-out party for the JAF-GT Mother Chassis, the coronation of an unlikely star of the future, and the much deserved crowning of a legendary champion.
#25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC
Drivers: Takeshi Tsuchiya / Takamitsu Matsui / Kenta Yamashita (Suzuka 1000km)
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 1st Place (78 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 1st Place (97 points)
Wins: 2 (Buriram, Motegi II)
Podiums: 4 (Fuji 500km, Sugo, Buriram, Motegi II)
Fastest Laps: 2 (Okayama, Sugo)
Pole Positions: 3 (Okayama, Sugo, Buriram)
VivaC Team Tsuchiya scored the Mother Chassis’ first Super GT win at Sugo last season, and going into year two of the newest innovation in the series, expectations were fairly high for this team.
On paper, this was the fastest car in GT300, leading the series in pole positions and podium finishes, tying for the most fastest laps, and being the only car to win multiple races in 2016.
The Dome-constructed Toyota 86 MC was frighteningly quick, especially at high-downforce circuits, but the genius in this team was their extremely aggressive pit strategies, in which they opted not to change tyres in every race they won, and 3 of the four that they finished on the podium. They found a strategy that worked for them, and they executed it better than anybody else that tried it after.
The main storyline by the end of the season was the retiring Tsuchiya, in his last full season as a driver, finally winning his first Super GT drivers’ crown. But if not for the emergent Matsui, who really, truly came to life once the Summer Series kicked off, they may not have made their championship run in the first place. Once the 28-year-old rookie started to shoulder most of the driving duties, it helped Tsuchiya execute their strategies a lot.
And it was also awesome to see the Mother Chassis go from concept, to upstart, to contender, to championship-winning design all within a span of just over twenty-four months. It’s GT300’s blueprint for the future, and it’s a very good one to have.
As good as the VivaC 86 was in 2016, they may be even better in 2017: Kenta Yamashita is joining the team on a full-time basis after his Suzuka cameo this year, and together with a rapidly-improving Matsui, this team could very easily take a second straight GT300 championship in the season to come.