LEON Racing began the year with a somewhat surprising, yet richly deserved breakthrough victory in the opening round of the season. The only downside to a breakthrough start to 2016? Being unable to maintain that form all season long.
#65 LEON Cvstos Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 12th Place (26 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 13th Place (43 points)
Wins: 1 (Okayama)
Podiums: 1 (Okayama)
Best Qualifying: 2nd (Okayama, Motegi II)
Something just looks aesthetically pleasing about the new AMG GT3 and the matte black LEON Racing livery – but it’s one thing to look good, it’s another to drive good. After podium finishes in their first three seasons in a row (as a standalone team), they were due a win at some point.
Sure enough, it happened just like that, at the start of the season in Okayama, where they won from second on the grid, outracing the VivaC 86 on the same tyre strategy. They led a Mercedes-AMG 1-2 finish in the car’s debut outing in Japan, the perfect start to the car’s life in Super GT.
But from the moment they were wiped out in a hard crash at the Fuji 500km, LEON Racing never got even close to winning another race. They suffered a penalty at Sugo, then a handling issue at the 300k at Fuji, ran out of fuel at Buriram, then ended the season at Motegi with a mechanical issue – each setback potentially costing them more points.
After winning the opening round of the season and scoring 20 points right off the bat, they only finished 8th at Suzuka, and 9th at Motegi I, to add another six points in the next seven races. And that wasn’t all down to BoP nerfs that affected the Mercedes-AMGs.
Still, the first win was a huge result for LEON Racing, but they’ve also unearthed a real superstar in second-year driver Gamou, who put the LEON AMG on the front row twice, and from our one detailed driver analysis at Buriram, was consistently and brilliantly fast in race trim throughout the season. Toyota should take a serious look at bringing him into one of their works teams, perhaps even in GT500 some day.
With better luck, LEON Racing could be back in the title fight, especially with the talents of Gamou at their disposal.