Gulf Racing with Pacific announced on Thursday their entry into the 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series GT300 class, with the same Porsche 911 GT3-R (991) and tyre supplier from Yokohama, but a completely overhauled driver lineup.
Former GT300 Drivers’ Champion Kyosuke Mineo will partner New Zealand’s Jono Lester in the familiar colours of the #9 Gulf NAC Porsche 911 this upcoming season, replacing Ryohei Sakaguchi and Hiroki Yoshida.
In addition to the new driver combination of Lester and Mineo, Gulf Racing with Pacific also appointed former team advisor Kimihiro Yashiro as the new team director, taking over from Hisashi Kunie, who will now focus solely on his role as an owner/representative.
The second-year alliance between Gulf Racing Japan and Pacific Racing endured a sluggish start to their first season in 2016, but managed to score an eighth place finish at the season finale at Twin Ring Motegi. The departing Sakaguchi and Yoshida finished 23rd in the GT300 Drivers’ standings, while Gulf Racing with Pacific finished 21st in the Teams’ Championship.
Lester, 27, made two appearances last year for Lamborghini Team Direction SHIFT. This will be the Kiwi’s first full season in Super GT, having also driven in the Asian Le Mans Series, GT Asia, Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia, and the Chinese GT Championship in 2016. Lester is a two-time championship runner up in Super Taikyu (2012-2013), and has ties to Porsche dating back to his 2006 debut in Porsche GT3 Cup competition.
Mineo, 42, is entering his twelfth season in Super GT, with one win, eight podiums, and 209 points from 78 career races. The highlight of Mineo’s Super GT career was when he won the 2012 GT300 Drivers’ Championship, driving a Porsche for Team Taisan Endless alongside Naoki Yokomizo. Like Lester, he is also transferring out of Lamborghini Team Direction SHIFT, and he too has experience in Super Taikyu, winning two championships (2009 ST-2, 2012 ST-1).
The new-look team will be on hand for their first appearance this weekend, at the Tokyo Auto Salon from January 13-15.