Long-time Super GT independents Tomei Sports announced their programme for the 2017 GT300 season on Saturday during the final leg of pre-season testing at Fuji Speedway.
The team will feature prominent sponsorship from long-time partners RunUp Group, and a new associate sponsorship deal with Swiss luxury watchmaker Rivaux Watches for their signature black and yellow Nissan GT-R GT3.
Joining their full-time driver combination of Yusaku Shibata and Atsushi Tanaka, is 2001 GT300 Drivers’ Champion Takayuki Aoki, who has been nominated as the team’s third driver for 2017.
Tomei Sports were founded in 1985 by Keikichi Nakano, but can trace their roots to the original Tomei Motor Company founded by the legendary Seiichi Suzuki in 1968. Tomei Sports were part of the inaugural All-Japan GT Championship in 1994, but went on a lengthy hiatus after 1996 before returning to start their current tenure in the series in 2007.
The team’s lead driver will be Yusaku Shibata, 43, a five-time All-Japan Gymkhana Champion (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) and co-manager of Arvou Motor Sports Service in Tochigi, founded by his father, Mie. Shibata was a surprise standout performer in Saturday morning’s first test session, going sixth-fastest in Session 1.
His regular co-driver is Atsushi Tanaka, 53, the president of the RunUp Group which has been involved with Tomei Sports’ Super GT team annually since 2010.
A surprise selection at third driver was made in the 17-year Super GT veteran Aoki, 44, who joins Tomei Sports having spent last year running the majority of the season with Dijon Racing. In 130 starts from 1998 to 2016, Aoki has twelve career GT300 class victories, good enough for fourth all-time in the category, and twenty four podium finishes.
Aoki helped lead Dijon Racing to their best season ever in 2016, with two tenth-place finishes at the Fuji 500km and at the Motegi GT Grand Final.
The hope is that with Aoki running at least the long-distance events at Fuji and Suzuka, Tomei Sports can finally capture a top-ten finish, a milestone that has eluded them for the last decade.