Another young driver is on the move in the Autobacs Super GT Series, as 24-year-old Shinnosuke Yamada has been confirmed as one of two drivers for the legendary Team Taisan SARD in the 2017 GT300 class.
Yamada joins the Taisan/SARD alliance after spending his rookie year at Team Upgarage with Bandoh, where he helped secure the team’s best results to date in their second year in the series.
Partnered with veteran co-driver Yuhki Nakayama, Yamada enjoyed a productive first season aboard the capable #18 Upgarage Toyota 86 MC, scoring two best finishes of fourth place at the Fuji 500km and the Suzuka 1000km, the latter of which was started from pole position – a first for the joint venture of Racing Project BANDOH and used auto parts reseller Upgarage, which began racing in 2015.
Those results, along with points-paying results at Sugo, the Fuji 300km, and the second race of the Motegi Grand Final were good enough to earn 14th in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship for Yamada and Nakayama, and 12th in the Teams’ Championship.
Yamada will hold the distinction of being the first direct graduate from the FIA F4 Japanese Championship to Super GT, finishing fourth in the inaugural 2015 championship behind champion Sho Tsuboi and runner-up Tadasuke Makino.
Yamada will make the switch from the Mother Chassis Toyota 86 to the V10-powered Audi R8 LMS of Team Taisan SARD, the most successful team in GT300 history.
Team Taisan, one of the original JGTC teams from the 1994 season, have won a record 24 races in the second class, and hold a share of four GT300 Drivers’ Championships (1996, 1998, 2000, 2012) and seven Teams’ titles (’96, ’98, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’12). They returned to Super GT last year in alliance with SARD, another legendary Japanese racing team – one that won their first GT500 title in 2016.
Despite a rushed start, they made rapid progress throughout the 2016 season. Led by rookie Yuya Motojima, the Taisan SARD Audi R8 had a respectable return season in 2016, scoring a best finish of sixth at Motegi – good enough for Team Taisan SARD to finish 16th in the Teams’ Championship, with Motojima 17th in the Drivers’ Championship.
The second driver of the #26 Taisan SARD R8 will be announced at a later date, likely to be the aforementioned Motojima.