Two new drivers, a new team director, and even plans to move to a new headquarters – these are all on the cards for Team Taisan SARD as the team prepares for the 2017 Super GT season in the GT300 category.
The alliance of two legendary Japanese racing factions, Team Taisan and Team SARD, announced they will relocate to a new headquarters in Fukushima Prefecture during the 2017 season.
Team Taisan SARD also announced that championship-winning team director Hideki Noda will take over as team director for the #26 Taisan SARD/Fukushima Audi R8 LMS, which will be driven by the all-new driver combination of 24-year-old Shinnosuke Yamada and 22-year-old Australian rookie Jake Parsons.
Team Taisan SARD finished 16th in the 2016 GT300 Teams’ Championship, with a best finish of sixth place at the first leg of the Motegi GT Grand Final last November. Yuya Motojima, the only driver to run all of Taisan SARD’s seven race entries, finished 17th in the Drivers’ Championship with 12 points, joined during the season by Shogo Mitsuyama, Shinji Nakano, and Tsubasa Kondo.
Claiming a share of four GT300 Drivers’ Championships, seven GT300 Teams’ Championships, and a record 24 GT300 race wins – plus five race wins and the 1995 Teams’ Championship in what is now GT500, Team Taisan are one of the most storied and successful teams in Super GT’s second tier.
With the exception of their 2015 sabbatical, Yasutsune “Ricky” Chiba’s squad has been on the grid in some form since the inaugural 1994 All-Japan GT Championship. This year, Taisan SARD look to build upon their successful return to Super GT last season, while also looking towards the future.
The team will run their car with the name “Fukushima” on the sides of the car, with the ultimate goal of relocating the team’s operations to a new headquarters in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of the 2017 season.
Team Taisan SARD hopes that with their move, they can provide opportunities to aspiring mechanics, engineers, and racing drivers from the prefecture – which is still recovering from the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and the subsequent fallout of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Joining Team Taisan SARD in 2017 is former Super GT driver and championship-winning team director, Hideki Noda.
Noda took over as Team Director at Lexus Team SARD in 2015, and in 2016, he helped lead SARD to their very first GT500 championship in 22 seasons. He will maintain his team director role at Lexus Team SARD in addition to assuming the same position at Team Taisan SARD in GT300.
Avid Formula 1 fans might also know Noda, who recently celebrated his 48th birthday on Monday, for his very brief tenure with Larrousse at the end of 1994 – a brief chapter in an otherwise accomplished racing career, with two career GT500 race wins, plus a win in the 2007 Fuji 1000km endurance race.
With an average age of 23, the new driver lineup of sophomore driver Shinnosuke Yamada and Super GT newcomer Jake Parsons shows a great deal of promise in 2017.
Yamada joins Team Taisan SARD after a solid rookie campaign with Team Upgarage with Bandoh, finishing 14th in the GT300 championship with two season-best fourth-place finishes at the Fuji 500km and Suzuka 1000km. His spot at the team was confirmed by the GT Association on February 27.
Parsons’ entry was announced this past Monday, and the 22-year-old from Sydney is excited about his first chance to race in Super GT.
“This is somewhere I’ve wanted to race for quite a while,” Parsons said in an interview with Speedcafe.com. “Super GT is Japan’s premier racing series, with major manufacturer backing, and I’m really keen to establish myself here.”
“It’s a big transition year, but I have some big expectations and aims. I’m ready to work hard and achieve my goals.”
Parsons comes to Super GT with success in single-seaters, a champion in the AsiaCup Series (2014), runner-up in the Formula Master China series (2015), and last year he raced in America in the Pro Mazda Championship. Parsons’ last race outing was in the Bathurst 12 Hour race in a Ginetta G55 GT4.