The Autobacs Super GT Series boasts the highest attendance of any national racing series in Japan. Through its open, fan-friendly atmosphere, a colourful cast of cars, teams, and drivers, Super GT is already the most popular racing series in Japan, and is starting to gain a foothold internationally.
Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave may be new to the series this season, but they are entering their debut Super GT season with a fresh approach to running a team – including a pledge to become the most fan-friendly team in the series, through a unique approach to fan engagement.
Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave were founded in 2013 as the racing division of the Saitama Toyopet group of automotive dealerships. Their approach to racing and fan engagement is inspired by their business practices of friendly service, as it is explained by team owner and driver, Takayuki Hiranuma, the Senior Managing Director of Saitama Toyopet.
The Toyota Mark X is the flagship rear-wheel drive sedan sold at Toyopet stores across Japan – naturally, it made sense for GreenBrave to construct and enter the Toyota Mark X MC in their debut season of Super GT competition. It also helps that the car has a racing pedigree, with its predecessor, the Toyota Chaser, standing out as one of the dominant cars of the Japanese Touring Car Championship (JTCC) in the mid-1990s.
GreenBrave is also unique in the fact that their crew of racing mechanics are all service engineers employed at Saitama Toyopet dealerships.
Normally, they are tasked with routine vehicle inspection and maitenance for the public, but over 100 of these service engineers also prepared and serviced GreenBrave’s race cars last year in Super Taikyu, the FIA F4 Japanese Championship, and the Toyota 86/BRZ Race series – and many more will join the team as they expand to Super GT.
Based on their track record of success, with GreenBrave winning the 2015 Super Taikyu ST-4 Class title and being one of the series’ top teams for the last four years in a row, there are a number of these humble service engineers who have the right stuff to stand out as full-time Super GT race mechanics.
GreenBrave’s policy as a company and as a race team is simple: “We are the number one team for fan engagement at the paddock.”
Their team policy is centered around three key points for outstanding “fan service”, and they are all inspired by the outstanding customer service that Saitama Toyopet pledge to provide to their customers.
The first: “If you have a thankful heart, be sure to express it in words, by greeting fans with a friendly ‘Hello!’, ‘Thank you for coming!’, and ‘Thank you for cheering us on!'”.
The second: “Every member of the team staff should express their gratitude to the fans, by carrying stickers and distributing them freely to every fan who visits.”
The third: “Pit stop practice is one of the most popular forms of fan engagement at every race, and you are encouraged to do as much pit practice for the fans to see at every event.”
The closing statement, a reflection of GreenBrave’s mission as a team, and as an extension of Saitama Toyopet as a business: “Our fans are future customers, mechanics, and drivers. And we want all of our fans to enjoy our hard work, the sound of the engines, and the smell of motor oil in our garage.”
No doubt about it, that even in a Super GT landscape where some teams take unique approaches to fan engagement – such as Goodsmile Racing’s personal sponsorship programmes that have brought in fans from not just the traditional motorsports community, but from the otaku culture as well – Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave have a unique mission statement.
Regardless of how much success their GreenBrave Mark X MC enjoys this year, piloted by Hiranuma and former GT300 champion Taku Bamba, if they make good on their word for providing outstanding fan engagement, they will immediately become one of Super GT’s most supported teams, and perhaps set a standard for others to follow in the years to come.