Equipped with the latest generation of Audi’s finest GT3 racer, Audi Team Hitotsuyama finally enjoyed the breakthrough season they have coveted for several years, and finished strong in 2016 as the best of the FIA GT3 teams.
#21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Richard Lyons / Tomonobu Fujii
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 3rd Place (57 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 3rd Place (76 points)
Wins: 1 (Motegi I)
Podiums: 2 (Fuji 300km, Motegi I)
Best Qualifying: 2nd (Fuji 300km, Motegi I)
Audi Sport have steadily increased their support of Hitotsuyama Racing over the last few years. In 2016, they purchased a brand new Audi R8 LMS, one of six new FIA GT3 category cars to debut in GT300 this season. Among the group, this new Audi boasted incredible downforce. They also switched from Yokohama to Dunlop tyres, but retained their lineup of Lyons and Fujii.
They may have rued the lack of straight-line speed at Fuji in August, where they lost to the ARTA BMW by just 0.106 seconds in the closest finish in GT300 history, but across the board, this car had the right stuff to compete.
And on November 12th, Audi Team Hitotsuyama finally scored their first ever victory, the first for Audi in four years, the first for the Hitotsuyama family’s team ever in their sixteen seasons in JGTC and Super GT.
You could only imagine what might have been if they’d not suffered a broken driveshaft at Sugo while they were running as high as fourth, or retired at Buriram when their race was compromised by a puncture.
Also, this is, on paper, one of the best driver lineups in GT300. We know Lyons is a former GT500 champion, the last “double champion” of Super GT and what is now Super Formula, but Fujii, who also won the Super Taikyu ST-X Class title for Kondo Racing this year, is every bit as good.
For years, while Audi have enjoyed success in GT3-style racing all over the globe, Super GT remained the only place where they’d yet to enjoy but flashes of that same success of teams like WRT Racing or Phoenix Racing, for instance. This year, Team Hitotsuyama finally gave Audi the success they’ve been missing in Japan for a long, long time.