After months of speculation, Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave, the racing wing of one of the largest network of Toyota dealerships in Japan, confirmed their maiden entry into the GT300 class of the 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series, with their all-new Toyota Mark X based on the Mother Chassis platform.
The #52 GreenBrave Mark X MC, developed in-house by Saitama Toyopet, will be piloted by series newcomer Takayuki Hiranuma, and former GT300 champion Taku Bamba, who returns to Super GT racing after nearly a five-year absence.
Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave were established in 2013 as a team in Super Taikyu, and have since expanded their involvement into the FIA F4 Japanese Championship and Toyota 86/BRZ Race series, but have now reached their ultimate goal of competing in the Autobacs Super GT Series.
In 2015, they won the Super Taikyu ST-4 class title with their Toyota 86, piloted by Hiranuma, Bamba, and Super GT legend Naoki Hattori. In December, they all raced for GreenBrave in the Sepang 12 Hours in Malaysia.
The Mark X MC is the first car based on a four-door sedan to compete in Super GT since 2011. The popular rear-wheel drive sedan has a successful lineage in Japanese motorsport: The Toyota Mark X’s predecessor, the Toyota Chaser, won the 1998 Japanese Touring Car Championship (JTCC) piloted by Masanori Sekiya.
Like all the cars developed on the Mother Chassis platform, the Mark X MC will be powered by a GTA-badged, 4.5 litre V8 engine based on the Nissan VK45DE powerplant, run through a standard-issue Hewland six-speed sequential gearbox. Mooncraft Engineering, who built the Lotus Evora MC, also assisted with the aerodynamic development of the Mark X MC. The car will be fitted with Yokohama Advan tyres.
Bamba, 34, returns to Super GT for the first time since the 2012 season. The highlight of his Super GT career came in 2011, when he won his first GT300 Drivers’ Championship, driving for Goodsmile Racing & Studie with Team UKYO alongside Nobuteru Taniguchi.
Bamba, who has driven for Goodsmile Racing, MOLA, and DHG Racing from 2006 to 2012, has spent the last four years working with Saitama Toyopet, primarily in Super Taikyu. Bamba has four career GT300 victories and 156 points scored in 42 races.
Hiranuma, 43, is the Senior Managing Director of Saitama Toyopet, a regional network of 46 new and used car dealerships in Saitama Prefecture. He began his racing career in 2013 with the launch of Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave, and has competed in Super Taikyu for the past four seasons.