2016 Super GT World Awards: Shinichi Yamaji Memorial Award

The 2016 Super GT World Awards recognize the most outstanding individuals from the 2016 Autobacs Super GT Series.

The Shinichi Yamaji Memorial Award is presented to the driver, team, or other individual who best demonstrates the spirit of competition, through their work at the racing circuit, and away from it, through perseverance, sportsmanship, and courage – they embody the positive attributes of Super GT racing.

These attributes defined the life and racing career of the late Shinichi Yamaji (1964 – 2014), an eighteen-year Super GT veteran, and a race winner in both GT500 and GT300 categories. Yamaji is best remembered for an incredible act of heroism on May 4, 1998, when he saved the life of fellow driver Tetsuya Ota after a horrific accident at Fuji Speedway.

In 2016, there was one unanimous choice for this award, one individual who best defined the spirit of competition in Super GT.

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RONNIE QUINTARELLI

Many drivers have come from other countries to compete in Japan. A select few have made it their home in racing, competing overseas for several seasons and making their legend in the island nation.

But no gaijin driver has made as great an impact, both on and off the circuit, in Japanese motorsport that Ronnie Quintarelli has.

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Quintarelli already made history in 2015 by becoming the first ever four-time champion of the premier GT500 class, doing so by winning his quartet of titles in a span of just five years.

“Ronnie Quattro” entered 2016 as the odds-on favorite, along with his NISMO co-driver Tsugio Matsuda, to take an unprecedented three consecutive championships. It didn’t quite turn out as planned, but that’s not the focus of Quintarelli’s year in racing.

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The Motul Autech GT-R took back-to-back victories to open the 2016 season. With that, Quintarelli entered a three-way tie for the most GT500 wins by a foreign driver – twelve wins, the record he shares with Irishman Ralph Firman, and three-time Le Mans champion Benoît Tréluyer.

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In June, Quintarelli was honoured by the Italian Republic with the title of “Official of the Order of the Italian Star”, presented to individuals of merit in a variety of fields, primarily as ambassadors to other countries. For his sporting achievements, and his social contributions in Japan – namely his role in assisting those affected by the Tohoku earthquake of 2011 – there could have been few more deserving candidates in all of Italian sport.

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Repaying the honour, figuratively and literally, Quintarelli, along with his fellow countryman Andrea Caldarelli, launched the Pray For Italy charity on August 24, to raise funds and assist the quake-stricken commune of Avarice.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else wearing layers, upon layers of latex makeup to play as an elderly version of themselves to promote the series – but that’s what Quintarelli did to promote Super GT in this somewhat bizarre, yet delightful promotional video for the 2016 season.

A valiant challenger for the championship right to the bitter end of the season, and one of the greatest ambassadors for Super GT that the series has ever seen, Ronnie Quintarelli was the unanimous choice for the inaugural Shinichi Yamaji Memorial Award.

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