32 cars took part in the official pre-season test for the Super Taikyu Endurance Series at Twin Ring Motegi, showcasing some of the best FIA GT3 and modified production racing machines in Japan.
One of the new cars on the grid was the Ferrari 488 GT3 of ARN Racing, which turned in the fastest lap of the testing session – an absolute belter of a lap from Kota Sasaki that was nearly a second and a half faster than the rest of the field.
Sasaki will join his apr Racing Super GT co-driver Hiroaki Nagai in Super Taikyu for the upcoming season, and their Ferrari’s best lap time of a 1:49.704 was unmatched by any of the other four ST-X class teams.
Second fastest was the #3 Endless Sports Nissan GT-R (Yuke Taniguchi / Hideki Yamauchi / Yuya Motojima), followed by the #89 HubAuto Racing Ferrari 488 (Morris Chen / Hiroki Yoshimoto / Yuya Sakamoto) and the #777 D’Station Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R (Satoshi Hoshino / Seiji Ara / Tsubasa Kondo).
There were a few noticeable presences missing from the test, such as the #1 Nissan GT-R of defending ST-X champions Kondo Racing. In addition, there were no cars from the ST-R (TCR International) and ST-Z (FIA GT4) categories at the test, though Birth Racing Project has committed to ST-R with an Audi RS3 LMS touring car for the upcoming season.
Fifth fastest overall and leading the ST-2 category was the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI of TOWAINTEC Racing (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh), four-time and defending champions of the class.
Sixth fastest overall, leading the ST-3 class, was the #62 Denso Le Beausset Lexus RC 350 (Koki Saga / Yuichi Nakayama / Kenta Yamashita) – on paper boasting one of the strongest lineups in ST-3, but they aren’t without competition this year.
That’s due to the arrival of a formidable new challenger, SKT Team Motoyama, and their Nissan Fairlady Z driven by owner/driver Satoshi Motoyama, with co-drivers Satoshi Matsubara, Hironobu Yasuda, and Masaki Kano (not pictured above). Though they were only sixth in class, they have high hopes for 2017.
Team NOPRO also brought a new machine to the party – the Mazda Axela (Mazda3) Diesel Turbo, which will also compete in the ST-3 category this year.
The #55 SunOasis Toyota 86 (Jun Tashiro / Takeshi Ito) led the way in ST-4, and in ST-5, Dijon Racing’s #48 Honda Fit (Hiroshi Takamori / Genki Nishimura / Zene Okazaki) was fastest of the lot.
The season will commence on April 2nd with two 3 hour, 20 minute races at Motegi, featuring the restructured “Group 1” and “Group 2” – with ST-X, ST-3, and ST-4 in Group 1, and ST-R, ST-1, ST-2, ST-5 comprising Group 2.