In the second half of the 2016 Super GT season, Excellence Porsche Team KTR lived up to their name – they were excellent to finish out the year, thanks to a new car, one legend and an unsung hero.
#33 Excellence Porsche 911 GT3-R
Drivers: Naoya Yamano / Jörg Bergmeister (5 rounds) / Yuya Sakamoto (2 rounds) / Tim Bergmeister (1 round)
GT300 Drivers’ Championship:
Yamano – 10th Place (30 points)
J. Bergmeister – 13th Place (25 points)
Sakamoto – 21st Place (5 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 10th Place (48 points)
Podiums: 1 (Motegi I)
Best Finish: 2nd (Motegi I)
Best Qualifying: 8th (Suzuka)
Seeking their first true Super GT success since their days as the Hankook Porsche team, KTR returned in 2016 with the new Porsche 911 GT3-R (991), and a brand new driver lineup headlined by former Daytona 24 Hours champion Bergmeister.
But the year started terribly, with two poor finishes of 22nd and 23rd to open the season. Then, Bergmeister would miss the entire Summer Series due to his priorities in IMSA, including the Suzuka 1000km. Jörg’s brother Tim, and later GT300 journeyman Sakamoto, would fill in over the three-race swing.
It was at Suzuka where the team finally broke out with a seventh-place finish, one well deserved in the mixed conditions at the demanding figure-eight circuit.
When the giant Jörg returned at Buriram, the team was further boosted, and finished out the season with three more points-paying finishes, with Bergmeister capping it off with a 2nd place finish at the first race at Motegi, one made possible thanks to an incredible late-race rally from the German legend on fresh tyres.
But the unsung hero has to be Naoya Yamano, the brother of triple GT300 champion Tetsuya. The younger Yamano has enjoyed a wealth of success in gymkhana events, but this was by far his best season in Super GT – and at times, he was equal to or better than the pace of his far more experienced co-driver.
Excellence Porsche Team KTR had the fourth-highest points total in the second half of 2016. Come 2017, they may be able to get Porsche back onto the top step of the GT300 podium for the first time in nearly five years.