LM Corsa were the only team to be the sole representative of two different manufacturers in GT300. Both sides of the garage battled through drastically different fortunes: One was an early-season surprise, the other a hapless backmarker.
#51 JMS LM Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Akihiro Tsuzuki / Morio Nitta / Shigekazu Wakisaka (Rd 2 & 6)
GT300 Drivers’ Championship:
Tsuzuki / Nitta: 16th place (13 points)
S. Wakisaka: 20th place (5 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 15th place (32 points)
Best Finish: 5th (Okayama)
Best Qualifying: 3rd (Fuji 300km)
On the one hand, the new Ferrari 488 GT3 did wonders in this half of the LM Corsa camp, prepared in conjunction with Super Formula champion team INGING Motorsport. If for some reason the car wasn’t competitive, the 488 GT3 was always going to be a gorgeous car.
Thankfully, they established themselves early on in the season with two straight top-six finishes to open the season. Then after finishing 9th at Sugo, the JMS team had a frustrating close to the season: They finished 11th in three of the next four races, with a 12th at Buriram, before ending the season with a mechanical DNF at Motegi.
The BoP adjustments over the course of 2016 didn’t favor the Ferrari 488, yes, but it’s frustrating to think of how much bigger their points haul could have been if not for races like the Fuji 300km, where the drivers’ door failed to latch shut after their pit stop, dropping them down after qualifying an impressive third.
Morio Nitta, “Sanbyaku no Tetsujin” himself, is still a fierce, rapid driver even as he approaches his 50th birthday in January, and he was by far the quickest of the drivers on the team. Shigekazu Wakisaka stood down from full-time driving after 2015 to give former PCCJ champion Tsuzuki a return chance in Super GT. Tsuzuki was adequate for the task, but at times looked decidedly slower than his veteran teammate.
JMS LM Corsa have a solid foundation to build on in 2017, and the Ferrari 488 will continue to be competitive for years. But it remains to be seen how long the veteran Nitta can continue to be the team’s ace driver – a practice crash at Motegi in which he had to be assisted from his car had some people a bit worried.
#60 Syntium LM Corsa Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Akira Iida / Hiroki Yoshimoto / Dominik Farnbacher (Suzuka 1000km)
GT500 Drivers’ Championship: Not Classified (0 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 26th Place (10 points)
Best Finish: 15th (Fuji 300km)
Best Qualifying: 20th (Motegi I)
The two-year “research & development” test for the old Lexus RC F GT3 is over at LM Corsa, and in all honesty, not a moment too soon for the Toyota Gazoo Racing-supported #60 side of the garage.
Never officially homologated as an FIA GT3 competition vehicle, the car never stood a chance at being competitive in the long run against its rivals in the same category. The car just didn’t have the engine, the downforce, or the reliability to be little more than a field filler. The GTA never even bothered to adjust its BoP settings all season. Unlike last year, they could not pick up even a single point in the Drivers’ Championship.
Yoshimoto and Iida are two top-caliber drivers whose talents have been wasted over the last two years, and the same can be said of Farnbacher’s one-off appearances in ’15 and ’16. That in itself is a terrible shame – neither Iida or Yoshimoto should be in a position that they’re just happy to see the chequered flag in six out of eight races. Put either man in a capable car, as they had in 2014 with the BMW Z4, and their results will be more indicative of their talents.
The good news is that their two years of glorified test runs have finally produced a proper challenger in the 2017 RC F GT3. Expectations are sky-high for Lexus’ debut in IMSA. If 3GT Motorsports gets through Daytona and Sebring with good performances in the GT Daytona category, that certainly bodes well for LM Corsa’s chances with the new RC F.
It’s impossible to fathom how it would get any worse, at least.