The advances of the Mother Chassis platform, and a refreshing continuity on the driver roster helped Team Upgarage with Bandoh improve by leaps and bounds in 2016.
#18 Upgarage Bandoh Toyota 86 MC
Drivers: Yuhki Nakayama / Shinnosuke Yamada
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 14th Place (25 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 12th Place (46 points)
Best Finish: 4th (Fuji 500km, Suzuka)
Fastest Laps: 1 (Suzuka)
Pole Positions: 1 (Suzuka)
Racing Project Bandoh’s return to GT300 competition with auto parts store Upgarage and the new Toyota 86 MC didn’t go so well last year, with just a single top-ten finish in 2015. They were affected by poor reliability from the MC cars to start 2015, and never got to grips with the new car as quickly as VivaC Team Tsuchiya did.
2016, however, was a much different story, a story that immediately improved by way of a fourth-place finish at the Fuji 500km, and pole position at the Suzuka 1000km. Until they got caught out by a mid-race safety car, it was a race the Upgarage 86 could have easily won from pole position.
This Upgarage 86 was scary fast, and Nakayama, a 2013 GT300 champion and former GT500 standout, was pretty dang fast in this fast machine, securing the pole position and the fastest lap at Suzuka. And unlike 2015, where he had four different co-drivers, this year he was able to enjoy the continuity of rookie co-driver Yamada, and served as something of a mentor to the newcomer.
There were missed opportunities, of course, like Yamada’s scary crash at the 100R at Sugo that could have cost them a top five, and Nakayama getting into a clumsy incident at Buriram that denied them a podium. They adopted the same aggressive double-stinting tyre strategies as VivaC Team Tsuchiya, but just couldn’t get the same results out of it.
But on the whole, this was a good, good year for this sophomore team, one that fits in with the breakthrough year of the main Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh organization in GT500, and for their Mother Chassis rivals at VivaC Team Tsuchiya. Could 2017 be another huge step forward? It’s very much possible with this staff in place.