One of Super GT’s oldest, most accomplished teams in history returned to the series after a year out, and Team Taisan SARD’s comeback campaign went better than expected – with shades of their championship glories of yesteryear, especially at the last meeting of the season.
#26 Taisan SARD FJ Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Yuya Motojima / Shogo Mitsuyama (5 rounds) / Tsubasa Kondo (2 rounds) / Shinji Nakano (Suzuka 1000km)
GT300 Drivers’ Championship:
Motojima – 17th Place (12 points)
Kondo – 18th Place (9 points)
Mitsuyama – 22nd Place (3 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 16th Place (27 points)
Best Finish: 6th Place (Motegi I)
Best Qualifying: 11th Place (Motegi II)
Team Taisan sat out 2015 with the intent of returning for 2016, and it all came together at the very last minute for Team Taisan SARD, the new alliance of two of Super GT’s most established squads.
Considering that they did very minimal pre-season testing, that they even raced at Okayama on the opening weekend of the year was impressive in itself. Their acquisition of a new Audi R8 LMS for the Fuji 500km put their comeback well ahead of schedule, and with the new car and its gobs of downforce, Taisan gradually clawed back into the sharp end of the grid, where they were used to being in their championship-winning years of ’96, ’98, 2000 and 2012.
Acquiring Motojima, last year’s PCCJ and Super Taikyu ST-X champion, was brilliant on Taisan SARD’s behalf, and he was one of the top rookie performers for the money in 2016, carrying the team to a points finish at Fuji in the 300km.
But when veteran driver Mitsuyama and his Adenau garage left the team after Suzuka, the team pulled off another big acquisition with the freshly-crowned 2016 PCCJ champion Kondo, who gave the team their best grid position of the year, and drove the closing stints in both points finishes at Motegi.
By that point, you almost forgot that there was a time where it looked like Team Taisan would never come back, and there was a time earlier this year where their comeback attempt could have been thwarted before it even got going.
Instead, they could be deep sleepers to win the title in 2017, especially if they can retain the scary good lineup of Motojima and Kondo. Team Taisan are back, in a damn big way.