RUN’A Entertainment and EVA Racing announced their 2017 Japanese motorsports activities on Friday, headlined by their continued involvement in the Autobacs Super GT Series with the Rn-sports team.
The familiar purple, green, and orange colours of the EVA Unit-01 from the animated series Neon Genesis Evangelion return to the #111 Mercedes-AMG GT3, but this year, there’s a brand new driver lineup that looks set to invigorate the upstart squad. All-Japan Formula Three graduate Keishi Ishikawa will join fellow Super GT newcomer Ryosei Yamashita, and veteran Masayuki Ueda has been named the new team director.
EVA Racing will sponsor the team for a second season, this year to promote the newest release in the Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical tetraology, Evangelion 3.0+1.0, which is scheduled for release in the near future.
After just two top-fifteen finishes in their first two seasons as a standalone team, Rn-sports hopes their third season will be more impactful.
They hope to do this with an all-new driver lineup to replace Ueda and Kazuya Tsuruta, who drove for Rn-sports full-time over the last two seasons.
Ishikawa, 22, made his Super GT debut with Rn-sports last August at the Suzuka 1000km, where he was the fastest of their three drivers in recording a season-best fifteenth-place finish.
Ishikawa is a former member of the Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP) driver training programme, stepping up to Super GT after two seasons in All-Japan Formula Three with TODA Racing. He finished seventh in the 2015 championship, and eighth in the 2016 championship, with a best finish of second in his debut race to his credit.
He’s one of two rookies to graduate from Formula 3 this season, the other is Sho Tsuboi, who will drive for LM Corsa and their new Lexus RC F GT3.
Yamashita turns 26 on Sunday, and will make his Super GT debut in April as he embarks on his first full season in top-level Japanese sports car racing.
The native of Nagoya made his racing debut in 2013 in the Toyota 86/BRZ Race series, and has raced in the one-make championship for the last four seasons. He made his Super Taikyu debut with Rn-sports in the final round of the 2016 season at Autopolis, where he finished seventh in the ST-X category.
As for 57-year-old Ueda, he will relinquish lead driver status this season, but stays with the team not only as the team director, but also as the team’s third driver for the long-distance races in 2017: The Fuji 500km and the Suzuka 1000km.
Rn-sports and EVA Racing must now be anticipating a breakthrough season, in which they can redo, and can advance, up the rankings in the ultra-competitive GT300 class.