Kenta Yamashita set for GT500 debut at Fuji 500km with Bandoh

Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh have officially appointed Kenta Yamashita to drive the #19 WedsSport Advan Lexus LC500 in the 2017 Fuji GT 500km Race on May 4.

Yamashita, one of the top prospects of the Toyota Young Driver Program (TDP), and the reigning All-Japan Formula Three Champion, will make his GT500 debut in place of regular Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh driver, Yuji Kunimoto, who is making his FIA World Endurance Championship debut at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 6.

It’s now been made official after weeks of preparation for the one-off driver switch, which included two pre-season tests for Yamashita – the first at Twin Ring Motegi on February 21-22, the second at Fuji Speedway on March 25.

The 21-year-old from Chiba is coming off a banner year in 2016, which included winning last year’s All-Japan F3 title, capped off with a star-making performance at the Macau Grand Prix that had the racing world buzzing. This season, Yamashita is also making his debut in the Japanese Super Formula Championship with Kondo Racing.

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© Toyota

He will partner regular co-driver Yuhi Sekiguchi, who is coming off a sixth-place finish at the first round of the season at Okayama International Circuit in the WedsSport LC500.

At Fuji, Yamashita will vacate his GT300 class seat at VivaC Team Tsuchiya, for whom he and Takamitsu Matsui drove to a fourth-place finish at Okayama in their Toyota 86 MC. The defending GT300 champions are expected to appoint their reserve driver, reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Japan champion Tsubasa Kondo, to partner Matsui in his absence before Yamashita returns for the rest of the season.

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© Toyota

“I am delighted to drive the number 19 car for this race,” Yamashita said. “This will be my first time racing in GT500, but testing went well and I was able to quickly get a feel for the performance of the car.”

“This will be an important race for the team at Fuji, so I will do my best not to drive over the limit, to run as much as I can, and to get the team a good result. Thank you for your support.”

Yamashita has run ten races in his Super GT career, and the fourth-place finish at Okayama last weekend is his best result to date in the GT300 category.

Feature Image Credit: Toshikazu Moriyama / AUTOSPORTweb

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