Golden Week in Japan starts on April 29, with the first of a string of national holidays – Shōwa Day, in this case – and before the Golden Week race in Japan that most know and love, the Super GT Fuji 500km, there is another racing event held to start the week of holidays.
It’s round two of the 2017 Super Taikyu Endurance Race series, two three-hour races at Sportsland SUGO, on April 29th and 30th, featuring several of the very same drivers who will be at Fuji just days later for the 500km.
After just one round of the 2017 season at Motegi, the classes that make up Groups 1 and 2 have been reshuffled, and the newest category in the series, ST-R, has now been rechristened as ST-TCR, reflecting the specifications of the TCR International touring formula.
At Sportsland Sugo, the two groups will be re-organized into a manner more consistent with the 2016 groupings.
ST-X, ST-TCR, ST-1, ST-2, and ST-3 will make up Group 1, whilst ST-4 and ST-5 will make up Group 2. Between the two groups, there’s an even 27 cars in each.
Best of all, you can watch both three hour races, qualifying, and much more on Super Taikyu TV – the official YouTube Live channel of the series, available anywhere in the world!
Nissan will look to extend their undefeated streak to ten races in ST-X, at a track where they finished 1-2 last year. Kondo Racing opened the 2017 season with a win at Motegi, and the trio of Tomonobu Fujii, Yuudai Uchida, and Kazuki Hiramine are all keen to win again at Sugo – despite carrying a 30 kilogram weight handicap this weekend.
In the first race with weight handicaps in play, only the Motegi podium finishers from each class will carry any additional ballast – in ST-X, that’s the three Nissan GT-R GT3s of Kondo Racing, Endless Sports, and GTNET Motor Sports.
This could present an opportunity for the ARN Racing and HubAuto Racing Ferraris, and the D’Station Porsche 911 GT3-R, which was knocked out of Motegi in the first practice session – Satoshi Hoshino, Seiji Ara, and Tsubasa Kondo are hungry to get their season back on track.
In the newly-rechristened ST-TCR, Honda are coming off a storybook overall victory at their home track at Motegi, but the two Civic Type-Rs of Civic TCR Racing Project won’t be a factor for the overall win this time out – barring a catastrophe in ST-X.
Still, they and their all-star driver lineups can be expected to have a great battle with the two Audi RS3 LMS of Birth Racing Project and Audi Team DreamDrive – both of whom suffered through fuel system issues late in the race at Motegi, but are keen to bounce back and score Audi’s first win in the class.
With only the apr Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entered in ST-1, the goal for the team led by Masami Kageyama and Ryuichiro Tomita will be to get in amongst the ST-X front-runners in the overall classification – and to avoid costly mistakes like the one that cost them two laps at Motegi.
ST-2 looks to come down to whether or not the Lancers of RS Ogawa and Shinryo Racing Team can hold off the charge of the four-time champion TOWAINTEC Subaru WRX STI for another go-round.
Lexus and Toyota cleaned up ST-3 in Motegi, led by the #38 Tracy Sports IS350 of Makoto Hotta and Ryohei Sakaguchi who won by a clear lap – but expect the Nissan Fairlady Zs, led by SKT Team Motoyama and Okabe Jidosha Racing Team, to try and bounce back.
In Group 2, ST-4 will be the headlining class once again. Last year at Sugo, Toyota 86es swept the top four places in the running order. But four weeks ago in Motegi, SKR Engineering’s Honda S2000 won the day thanks to some driving heroics from Masahiro Sasaki.
The “hachiroku section” are keen to get back on top at Sugo, however. In particular, watch for the TOM’s Spirit 86 – as Takamitsu Matsui and Naoya Gamou are fresh off a class victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualifying Race. They’re joined for this race by Super GT rookie contender Sho Tsuboi, making his 2017 Super Taikyu debut.
ST-5 should see some close competition, particularly if the Honda Fits are hampered with similar reliability issues to the one that hurt a few of their teams in Motegi. Three different cars stood on the podium in the first round – and this could be yet another close race.
Love Drive Racing continues the Mazda Women In Motorsport initiative by giving more women an opportunity to race, as newcomer Eriko Yamamoto makes her series debut in the #50 Mazda Roadster.
The action begins with the Group 2 race at 2:20 PM JST on Saturday, April 29, and the Group 1 race on Sunday, April 30, at 2:00 PM JST.