2017 Super Taikyu Season Preview: The Next Phase

The Super Taikyu Endurance Series is Japan’s answer to the Nürburgring 24 Hours and the VLN Endurance Series. A playground of production-based racing machines, Super Taikyu’s selection vehicles range from the FIA GT3 racing machines that dominate most of the global landscape, to a wide variety of Japan’s most beloved everyday sports cars. Drivers of all skill levels are welcome, from legendary champions, to young stars of the future, to hobbyists and weekend warriors.

In 2017, that playground is set to grow even further, as Super Taikyu welcomes two new classes, for TCR International touring cars and FIA GT4 sports cars. It also welcomes a selection of new teams, new cars and new drivers, as the series heads towards its twenty-eighth season of competition.

Super Taikyu is Japan’s second-biggest sports car racing championship behind Super GT, and it varies from Super GT in a number of ways. Super Taikyu races are timed events, ranging from two three-hour races to a single nine-hour super endurance race. Unlike Super GT, there is no success ballast to level the playing field, and there is a control tyre from Yokohama for all cars and classes, instead of the multi-level open tyre war. Whereas Super GT’s top class is strictly all-professional, all of Super Taikyu’s classes are a mixture of drivers of all skill levels.

And, in Super Taikyu, there are a number of classes for sports cars that are just like the ones that can be bought in a dealership. Cars like the Toyota GT86, Honda Civic Type-R, Mazda MX-5, Nissan Fairlady Z, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Subaru WRX STi – they all have a presence in Super Taikyu, with only the bare essential modifications made to make them competition legal.

Mixing those cars with GT3, and now TCR and GT4 cars, makes for a fascinating product that stands not as a competitor to Super GT, but as a unique challenge all to its own.

61 cars are registered, and 57 of them will be there for the first round of the championship this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, with some strong and otherwise intriguing entries in amongst them.

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© Nissan

ST-X Class (FIA GT3)

#1 – Kondo Racing – Nissan GT-R GT3: Yuudai Uchida, Tomonobu Fujii, Kazuki Hiramine
#3 – Endless Sports – Nissan GT-R GT3: Yuke Taniguchi, Hideki Yamauchi, Yuya Motojima
#8 – ARN Racing – Ferrari 488 GT3: Hiroaki Nagai, Kota Sasaki
#25 – K’s Frontier – Porsche 911 GT3-R (997): Taiyo Iida, Tomoki Nojiri, Tetsuo Ogino
#89 – HubAuto Racing – Ferrari 488 GT3: Morris Chen, Hiroki Yoshimoto, Yuya Sakamoto
#99 – GTNET Motor Sports – Nissan GT-R GT3: Tadao Uematsu, Kazuki Hoshino, Kiyoto Fujinami
#112 – Rn-Sports – Mercedes SLS AMG GT3: Atsushi Sato, Ryosei Yamashita, Nobuo Kubo
#777 – D’Station Racing– Porsche 911 GT3-R (991): Satoshi Hoshino, Seiji Ara, Tsubasa Kondo
#999 – CARGUY Racing – Lamborghini Huracán GT3: Takeshi Kimura, Naoki Yokomizo¹

¹ CARGUY Racing will not appear at Twin Ring Motegi.

Nissan won every race last season and finished 1-2-3 in the ST-X championship, led by defending champions Kondo Racing – who split the season four wins to two over runners-up Endless Sports. Both teams look like solid contenders once again, as do GTNET Motor Sports.

They cannot ignore the new challengers from Ferrari and Porsche, however. ARN Racing were fastest in pre-season testing at Motegi, and HubAuto Racing are a credible threat from Taiwan. D’Station Racing step up from ST-1 to ST-X, carrying the banner for Porsche – any one of these teams could realistically put an end to Nissan’s domination of the premier category.

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© STO

ST-R Class (TCR)

#10 – Adenau – Volkswagen Golf GTI – Philippe Devesa, Shogo Mitsuyama¹
#19 – Birth Racing Project – Audi RS3 LMS – Kouichi Okumura, Kei Akiyoshi, Daisuke Yamawaki
#45 – Audi Team DreamDrive – Audi RS3 LMS – Shozo Takahara, Takuya Shirasaka, Naoto Takeda
#97 – Modulo Racing Project – Honda Civic TCR – Shinichi Ito, Keiichi Ebisawa, Shinji Nakano
#98 – Motul Dome Racing Project – Honda Civic TCR – Takuya Kurosawa, Keishi Ishikawa, Hiroki Katoh

¹ Adenau will not appear at Twin Ring Motegi.

Despite only being announced in January, ST-R has a pretty solid entry for much of the season, with four cars at Motegi and a fifth on the way.

Audi and Birth Racing Project were the first to commit to ST-R, stepping all the way up from ST-5. But the Honda Civic TCR Racing Project’s two car entry has a superior driver roster on paper, and the support of Dome Racing and Modulo should only further reinforce their status as the favourites in the class.

24h Dubai 2017
© BMW

ST-Z Class (FIA GT4)

No entries to start the season in ST-Z, but BMW Team Studie are at least one team that’s interested in entering this category in the future with a new M4 GT4 like the one that raced in the Dubai 24 Hour event.

GT4 is growing exponentially as an alternative to GT3 – hopefully that growth can catch on in Japan.

nissoku
© Porsche Japan

ST-1 Class (3501cc and above)

#31 – apr – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Katsuhito Ogawa, Masami Kageyama, Ryuichiro Tomita
#51 – BEND Racing – BMW Z4M Coupé – Shinya Hosokawa, Masamitsu Ishihara, Daisuke Ikeda

Only two cars will represent the ST-1 category in 2017.

The D’Station Porsche 911 Cup Car was sold to top Super GT team apr, who look to have a decided advantage over the aging BMW Z4M of BEND Racing. (The apr Porsche will look similar to the Porsche Carrera Cup car above.)

t1
© STO

ST-2 Class (2001-3500cc, all-wheel drive)

#6 – Shinryo Racing Team – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – Tomohiro Tomimasu, Yasushi Kikuchi, Masazumi Ohashi
#7 – Shinryo Racing Team – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – Soichiro Yoshida, Atsushi Ishizaki, Masato Narisawa
#20 – RS Ogawa – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – Kazuya Shimogaki, Takeshi Matsumoto, Setsushu Kondo
#30 – RS Ogawa – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX – Hajime Ohnami, Shinya Sato, Katsuichi Ito
#59 – TOWAINTEC Racing – Subaru WRX STi – Manabu Osawa, Hitoshi Gotoh

The story in ST-2, the rally-inspired class of Imprezas versus Lancer Evos, will be TOWAINTEC Racing’s pursuit of a fifth straight title.

Only a quartet of Lancers from Shinryo and RS Ogawa would stand in their way, but even still, the lone Subaru looks poised to dominate the category again.

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© STO

ST-3 Class (2001-3500cc, two-wheel drive)

#14 – Okabe Jidosha Motorsport – Nissan Fairlady Z34 – Manabu Yamazaki, Yasuhiro Arai, Toshiaki Koshimitsu
#15 – Okabe Jidosha Motorsport – Nissan Fairlady Z34 – Masaaki Nagashima, Toru Tanaka, Tetsuya Tanaka
#17 – Team NOPRO – Mazda Axela Diesel Turbo – Tatsuya Tanigawa, Tatsuya Nogami, Toshihiko Nogami
#23 – Okabe Jidosha Motorsport – Nissan Fairlady Z34 – Mitsunori Ataka, Masaya Kohno, Manabu Ohara
#34 – SKT Team Motoyama – Nissan Fairlady Z34 – Satoshi Motoyama, Satoshi Matsubara, Hironobu Yasuda
#35 – Techno First – Nissan Fairlady Z34 – Drivers TBD¹
#38 – Tracy Sports – Lexus IS350 – Makoto Hotta, Ryohei Sakaguchi
#39 – Tracy Sports – Lexus RC350 – Yuya Tezuka, Shuji Maejima, Ataru Suzuki
#62 – Le Beausset Motorsports – Lexus RC350 – Koki Saga, Yuichi Nakayama, Kenta Yamashita²
#68 – Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave – Toyota Mark X – Naoki Hattori, Shigekazu Wakisaka, Takayuki Hiranuma

¹ #35 Techno First team will not appear at Twin Ring Motegi.

² Kenta Yamashita will not drive for Le Beausset Motorsports at Twin Ring Motegi due to commitments in Super Formula, and will be replaced by Yuya Hiraki.

Lots to like in ST-3, starting with the new SKT Team Motoyama Nissan, and the arrival of the legendary Satoshi Motoyama as a full-time Super Taikyu driver. He’ll reignite his rivalry with GreenBrave’s ace Naoki Hattori, with Saitama Toyopet running a Mark X sedan.

Le Beausset’s Lexus was fastest in the pre-season tests, and Team NOPRO’s new diesel Mazda captured a lot of observers’ attention. But all of them are chasing Tracy Sports’ old Lexus IS350, which romped to the title in 2016.

 

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© Toyota Gazoo Racing

ST-4 Class (1501-2000cc)

#12 – RIKU – Honda Civic Type-R (FD2) – Takayuki Matsui, RIKU, Hayato Date
#13 – Endless Sports – Toyota 86 – Ryo Ogawa, Tsubasa Takahashi, Masaya Hanazato
#18 – Y’s Distraction – Toyota 86 – Takeo Asano, Masataka Inoue, Kazunori Nishimura
#26 – Tarmac Pro Racing Team – Toyota Vitz GRMN Turbo – Tobio Ohtani, Kazuhiko Kawanakako, Mitsuaki Matsuo
#27 – Makiguchi Engineering – Subaru BRZ – Isao Ihashi, Yuki Baba, Takahiro Muraji
#29 – T’s Concept – Toyota 86 – Tohjiro Azuma, Daisuke Matsunaga, Yasuhiro Ogura
#40 – Tracy Sports – Toyota 86 – Hiroki Yoshida, Akihiko Hamano, Akiya Yoshimoto
#54 – TC Corse – Mazda MX-5 Roadster (NC) – Teruaki Kato, Yuui Tsutsumi
#55 – AutoFactory – Toyota 86 – Jun Tashiro, Takashi Ito, Masayuki Tanaka
#60 – G-motion with KRP – Honda Integra Type-R – Kazuyuki Matsumoto, Takahiro Matsuzawa, Hajime Suzuki
#74 – amuse & SPV Racing – Toyota 86 – Drivers TBD¹
#77 – Cusco Racing – Toyota 86 – Eiji Yamada, Koji Endo, Yasunori Nakajima
#86 – Toyota Team TOM’s Spirit – Toyota 86 – Takamitsu Matsui, Naoya Gamou, Takuto Iguchi
#93 – SKR Engineering – Honda S2000 – Drivers TBD
#96 – ASTMIL Racing – Honda Integra Type-R – Keiichi Inoue
#100 – amuse & SPV Racing – Toyota 86 – Takashi Shibuya, Tadashi Watanabe
#333 – Glory Racing with A-One – Honda Civic Type-R (FN2) – Kizuku Hirota, Kazuhisa Shimoyama, Yuya Nakajima

¹ #74 amuse & SPV Racing team will not appear at Twin Ring Motegi.

ST-4 is Super Taikyu’s largest and most competitive category. Most of the competition is between the dominant Toyota 86es/Subaru BRZs – ten of them in this year’s field, including the reigning champions Endless Sports and bitter rivals at TOM’s Spirit, plus the likes of Cusco Racing and newcomers T’s Concept.

The “hachiroku resistance” is led by two Integras, two Civics, one S2000, and even a turbo Vitz – but the only non-86 to win last year was TC Corse’s Mazda Roadster, pulling off an upset in doing so.

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© STO

ST-5 Class (1500cc and Under)

#2 – Team Bomex with Auto Labo – Mazda MX-5 Roadster (ND) – Katsuhiko Tsutsui, Junichiro Yamashita
#4 – Team Bride – Honda Fit 3 RS – Junzo Shibatani, Susumu Nakamura, Toshiya Ito
#11 – Team Blood Sports – Toyota Vitz RS – Takao Onishi, Takahiro Miki, Koki Oiwa
#32 – apr – Mazda MX-5 Roadster (ND) – Akihiro Harashima, Tatsuya Okahara, Shinya Iinuma
#37 – Team NOPRO – Mazda Demio Diesel Turbo – Yutaka Seki, Tsuyoshi Umeda, Kaoru Ijiri
#48 – Dijon Racing – Honda Fit 3 RS – Zene Okazaki, Genki Nishimura, Hiroshi Takamori
#50 – Love Drive Racing – Mazda MX-5 Roadster (ND) – Mariko Iwaoka, Enami Kitahira, Hiroko Komatsu
#57 – M&K Management – Honda Fit 3 RS – Mitsuhiro Endo, Ryusuke Masumoto
#66 – Over Drive – Mazda Demio – Riku Hashimoto, Ryuichiro Otsuka, Takayuki Takechi
#69 – J’s Racing – Honda Fit 3 RS – Takahisa Ohno, Junichi Umemoto, Hideaki Yamada
#88 – Murakami Motors – Mazda MX-5 Roadster (ND) – Hiroyuki Murakami, Takeshi Wakitani
#213 – APROS Racing – Toyota Vitz RS – Takashi Azuma, Yuichi Yoko, Futoshi Someya
#700 – J’s Racing – Honda Fit 3 RS – Hirobon, Leo Teranishi

With Birth Racing Project in ST-R now, J’s Racing will defend their ST-5 titles on their own with their Honda Fits. They’ll see off a challenge from last years’ nemeses Team NOPRO and their diesel Mazda, plus pre-season pacesetters like Dijon Racing, M&K Management, and Team Blood Sports.

Love Drive Racing will make history by fielding the first all-woman driver lineup in Super Taikyu history, their three drivers all reaching this level through the Mazda Women In Motorsport initiative. That in itself is a victory that cannot be quantified in championship points alone.

Schedule

Round 1: Twin Ring Motegi [Two three-hour, twenty-minute races] April 1-2

Round 2: Sportsland SUGO [Two three-hour races] April 29-30

Round 3: Suzuka Circuit [Four-hour race] June 10-11

Round 4: Autopolis [Two three-hour races] July 15-16

Round 5: Fuji Speedway [Fuji Super-TEC nine-hour race] September 2-3

Round 6: Okayama International Circuit [Two three-hour races] October 14-15

How to follow

With the creation of the S-Tai Media Project for 2017, Super Taikyu will be making major pushes to get more involved in social media through YouTube Live, Facebook, and Twitter.

Facebook | YouTube | Twitter

Highlights from all six rounds will be broadcast on the BS11 Network on a one-week delay, and posted on Super Taikyu’s official YouTube channel shortly after broadcast.

Super GT World will have previews and post-race reports throughout the season, and live updates when available on social media!

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