The Autobacs Super GT Series will welcome a new manufacturer to the series in 2017, as Bentley and their Continental GT3 race car will make their much-anticipated debut in the 2017 GT300 class with the announcement of the newest team: EIcars Bentley TTO.
The #117 EIcars Bentley Continental GT3 will be run by Teramoto Technical Office (TTO), marking their first involvement in the series in a decade, and piloted by the veteran driver lineup of former GT500 race winner and Formula 1 driver Yuji Ide, and four-time Super Taikyu champion Ryohei Sakaguchi.
The Bentley Continental GT3 has quickly become one of the most successful GT3 race cars in the world since it debuted in 2014. Powered by a four-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing over 600 horsepower in unrestricted form, the Continental GT3 has already taken major championship titles and race victories around the world. It won the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup in 2015, and the GT Asia Series championship in 2016.
A Bentley Continental GT3 prepared by M-Sport took third place in the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia, driven by Super GT alumni Oliver Jarvis.
Super GT’s GT300 class remains the only GT3-category arena that the Continental has yet to conquer, but now the big Bentley will make its series debut alongside its fellow GT3 rivals from the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) family, the Audi R8 LMS, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3, and the Porsche 911 GT3-R – plus several others.
EIcars (European Import Cars) are a network of premium import car dealerships in Nagoya, Japan. They deal luxury automobiles from Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Audi, and BMW.
Hiroyuki Teramoto will serve as the team director. He has vast experience as a race engineer in Super GT, Formula Nippon, and All-Japan F3 over the last twenty-four years, but Teramoto and TTO haven’t been directly involved in Super GT since 2007, when he was chief engineer and head of maintenance for both Yokoyama Racing and Mario Racing in GT300.
Yuji Ide is the team’s lead driver, the 42-year-old veteran returning to Super GT for the first time since the 2015 season when he drove six rounds for Team Upgarage with Bandoh. Ide has won races in both GT500 and GT300 classes, including a signature victory in the 2010 Suzuka Summer Special (1000km) for Autobacs Racing Team Aguri.
He’s also driven for NISMO, Hasemi Motorsport, Team Impul, and Team Kunimitsu over a span of twelve seasons. Ide was the 2005 Formula Nippon Championship runner-up, and drove four hard-luck Grands Prix in Formula 1 for the Super Aguri team.
Partnering Ide is Ryohei Sakaguchi, who made his Super GT debut back in 2007 for Yokoyama Racing – one of the teams prepared and supported by TTO. Sakaguchi, who also turned 42 this February, spent the last two seasons for Pacific Motorsports, who became Gulf Racing with Pacific last season.
Sakaguchi is best known as a four-time Super Taikyu Endurance Series champion, winning a hat trick of ST-2 Class Championships from 2010 to 2012 with the RS Ogawa team, and most recently, winning the 2016 ST-3 Class Championship for Tracy Sports. His best Super GT finish is fourth at Sepang 2008, and he scored an eighth-place finish last year in the final round at Motegi.
EIcars Bentley TTO plan to run seven out of eight rounds in 2017, electing to sit out the lone fly-away race at Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand, due to their status as a new team without pre-seeding benefits.
However, with their experienced team and a potent car, they plan to make the most of their debut season in 2017.