January 2017 GT300 Silly Season Update 2: Moving Pieces

On Thursday, AUTOSPORTweb published an updated version of the auto sport Magazine Vol. 1447 GT300 off-season update chart, detailing the rumoured 2017 entry list for the Autobacs Super GT Series’ GT300 category.

In the two weeks since that original update, four teams’ entries were made official during the Tokyo Auto Salon 2017 weekend – including the debut of Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave, an all-new driver lineup for Gulf Racing with Pacific, and K2 R&D LEON Racing selecting a new tyre supplier in Bridgestone – along with confirmation of Subaru and R&D Sport’s factory racing plans.

And as Ryuji Hirano of AUTOSPORTweb details, the record grid of 31 entries in this year’s GT300 class is starting to take shape – but there are some major driver moves in the works.

As always, be sure to keep in mind that the rumours disclosed in this piece are not confirmed, except when stated otherwise.

First, there is some good news on the teams’ front for GT300. Team Taisan SARD are likely to return for the 2017 season with their Audi R8 LMS, and JLOC will likely continue to field two Lamborghini Huracán GT3s in Super GT, to go along with their new entry into the Blancpain GT Asia Series.

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© Nissan

NDDP Racing’s 2017 status was in doubt two weeks earlier, but it seems as if Nissan’s works-affiliated GT300 entry will be back next year after all. Though, the #3 Nissan GT-R GT3 may carry a new name this coming year, with the status of B-Max Racing uncertain as of yet.

LM Corsa are now confirmed to run two of the 2017-spec Lexus RC F GT3s, and they are likely to split the tyre suppliers between their two entries: The #60 RC F would remain on Yokohama Advan tyres, and Bridgestone would supply the #51 RC F.

The former #51 LM Corsa entry, the Ferrari 488 GT3 prepared by INGING Motorsport, is now rumoured to take over the #50 Arnage Racing entry in some capacity, though Arnage Racing told AUTOSPORTweb that they cannot disclose much about their 2017 plans.

The only other doubtful presences on the GT300 grid this year now appear to be Dijon Racing, and Lamborghini Team Direction – the latter of whom will scale back to a single entry for 2017 if they are to return.

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© Masataka Yanagida

The driver market in GT300 stands to be headlined by a bombshell announcement that Masataka Yanagida will move to the GT300 class with Audi Team Hitotsuyama, driving the #21 Audi R8 LMS with Richard Lyons. Yanagida has been linked to a move down to GT300 for weeks now, but the potential move to Audi is the surprise element here.

Yanagida, a two-time GT500 and GT300 class champion, has been a Nissan factory driver since his debut in 2001, and his father, Haruhito, was a star driver for Nissan in the 1970s – this would be a major departure if it goes through.

Yanagida would replace Tomonobu Fujii, who is likely to return to KTR and the #33 Porsche 911 GT3-R. An international Porsche works driver will occupy the second seat in the #33 Porsche, likely to be someone other than Jörg Bergmeister, who raced for the team in 2016.

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© Toyota Gazoo Racing

Yuichi Nakayama is another name that’s expected to be on the move, out of the #31 apr Toyota Prius GT, and into the new #51 Lexus RC F GT3 of LM Corsa, with rookie candidate Sho Tsuboi driving alongside in an all-Toyota Young Drivers’ Program (TDP) lineup. Tsuboi was the inaugural FIA F4 Japanese Champion in 2015, and was the top rookie in All-Japan F3 last season.

Tsuboi isn’t the only new name linked to a Super GT seat: 25-year-old Ryosei Yamashita has popped up as a potential candidate to drive the #111 Rn-sports Mercedes-AMG GT3 alongside Masayuki Ueda, though both drivers are unconfirmed as of yet. Yamashita has been racing in the Toyota 86/BRZ Race for the last four seasons, and made his Super Taikyu debut last season for Rn-sports.

With Nakayama likely to move out of the #31 Prius lineup, Koki Saga would have a new driving partner. Rintaro Kubo, who debuted for Arnage Racing last year, is now linked to the #31 apr Prius, though AUTOSPORTweb reports that there may be other candidates to drive last year’s vice-champion entry in GT300.

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© GT Association

There’s also an open seat in the #55 ARTA BMW M6, now official with the confirmation of Takashi Kobayashi’s promotion to GT500. AUTOSPORTweb has the second driver of the ARTA BMW listed as an “ARTA Supported Driver”, though they also mention that the driver is a known commodity outside of Super GT.

2015 GT300 champion Andre Couto might be on the move from Gainer to Lamborghini Team Direction, to partner 2012 GT300 champion Naoki Yokomizo in the #63 Direction Huracán, and if that happens, the name linked to replace Couto in the #10 Gainer Nissan GT-R would be former Gulf Racing with Pacific driver Hiroki Yoshida.

There are also two drivers linked to the Bentley Continental GT3’s much-anticipated debut entry, prepared by Teramoto Technical Office (TTO). One is Ryohei Sakaguchi, formerly of Gulf Racing with Pacific, and the other is Super GT veteran and multiple race winner, Yuji Ide.

2017 GT300 Silly Season Overview (19.1.2017)

Guide

✅ Entry already confirmed
🔴 Definite, pending confirmation
⭕ Likely, but unconfirmed
▲ Unconfirmed
🔰 First-year team or rookie-eligible driver

#2 – Cars Tokai Dream28 – Lotus Evora MC – Yokohama – Kazuho Takahashi 🔴 / Hiroki Katoh 🔴

#3 – NDDP Racing? – Nissan GT-R GT3 – Yokohama – Kazuki Hoshino ⭕ / Mitsunori Takaboshi ⭕

✅ #4 – Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Yokohama – Nobuteru Taniguchi / Tatsuya Kataoka ✅

#5 – Team Mach – Toyota MC86 – Yokohama – Junichiro Yamashita ▲ / Masami Kageyama ▲

#7 – BMW Team Studie – BMW M6 GT3 – Yokohama – Jörg Müller ⭕ / Seiji Ara ⭕

✅ #9 – Gulf Racing with Pacific – Porsche 911 GT3-R – Yokohama – Jono Lester 🔰 / Kyosuke Mineo ✅

#10 – Gainer – Nissan GT-R GT3 – Dunlop – Ryuichiro Tomita ⭕ / Hiroki Yoshida ▲

#11 – Gainer – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Dunlop – Katsuyuki Hiranaka 🔴 / Björn Wirdheim 🔴 

#18 – Team Upgarage with Bandoh – Toyota MC86 – Yokohama – Yuhki Nakayama 🔴 / Shinnosuke Yamada ⭕

#21 – Audi Team Hitotsuyama – Audi R8 LMS – Dunlop – Richard Lyons ⭕ / Masataka Yanagida ⭕

#22 – R’Qs Motor Sports – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Yokohama – Hisashi Wada 🔴 / Masaki Jyonai 🔴

✅ #25 – VivaC Team Tsuchiya – Toyota MC86 – Yokohama – Takamitsu Matsui / Kenta Yamashita ✅

#26 – Team Taisan SARD – Audi R8 LMS – Yokohama – Yuya Motojima ▲ / unknown driver (Tsubasa Kondo? 🔰)

#30 – apr Racing – Toyota Prius apr GT – Yokohama – Hiroaki Nagai 🔴 / Kota Sasaki 🔴

#31 – apr Racing – Toyota Prius apr GT – Bridgestone – Koki Saga 🔴 / Rintaro Kubo ▲ (or other unknown candidate?)

#33 – KTR – Porsche 911 GT3-R – Yokohama – Tomonobu Fujii ⭕ / Undisclosed Porsche factory driver 

#35 – Toyota Team Thailand 🔰 – Toyota MC86 – Yokohama – Nattavude Charoensukhawatana 🔰⭕ / Piti Bhirombhakdi 🔰⭕

#48 – Dijon Racing? – Nissan GT-R GT3 – Yokohama – Hiroshi Takamori ▲ / Masaki Tanaka ▲

#50 – Arnage Racing?/INGING Motorsport? – Ferrari 488 GT3? – Yokohama – Akihiro Tsuzuki ▲ / Morio Nitta ▲

#51 – LM Corsa – Lexus RC F GT3 – Bridgestone – Yuichi Nakayama ⭕ / Sho Tsuboi 🔰⭕

✅ #52 – Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave 🔰 – Toyota Mark X MC – Yokohama – Takayuki Hiranuma 🔰 / Taku Bamba ✅

#55 – Autobacs Racing Team Aguri – BMW M6 GT3 – Bridgestone – Shinichi Takagi ⭕ / Undisclosed ARTA supported driver? ▲

#60 – LM Corsa – Lexus RC F GT3 – Yokohama – Akira Iida 🔴 / Hiroki Yoshimoto 🔴

✅ #61 – R&D Sport – Subaru BRZ R&D Sport – Dunlop – Takuto Iguchi / Hideki Yamauchi ✅

#63 – Lamborghini Team Direction? – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – Yokohama – Andre Couto ▲ / Naoki Yokomizo ▲

✅ #65 – K2 R&D LEON Racing – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Bridgestone – Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou ✅

#87 – JLOC? – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – Yokohama – Shinya Hosokawa ▲ / Kimiya Sato ▲

#88 – JLOC – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – Yokohama – Manabu Orido 🔴 / Kazuki Hiramine 🔴

#111 – Rn-sports – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Yokohama – Masayuki Ueda ▲ / Ryosei Yamashita 🔰▲

#360 – Tomei Sports – Nissan GT-R GT3 – Yokohama – Yusaku Shibata 🔴 / Atsushi Tanaka 🔴

#??? – Teramoto Technical Office (maintenance) – Bentley Continental GT3 – Yokohama? – Ryohei Sakaguchi ⭕ / Yuji Ide ▲

Source: Ryuji Hirano / AUTOSPORTweb

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