On the morning of May 4, before the Fuji GT 500km Race, GT Association (GTA) chairman Masaaki Bandoh gave his customary Super GT pre-race press conference, updating the media and the fans on the latest developments within the series.
With thanks to our friend Geinou of RacingBlog.de, who provided translations of last Thursday’s comments, here are Chairman Bandoh’s comments about a number of different topics – including the new Suzuka 10 Hours endurance race, Balance of Performance, and the upcoming return to Autopolis circuit on Kyushu island.
No championship stakes at Suzuka 10 Hours
Though all teams from the GT300 class will be invited to the new Suzuka Summer Endurance event next year, Bandoh stated that the upcoming 2018 Suzuka 10 Hours endurance race will not count towards the 2018 Super GT GT300 Championship – citing a number of logistical challenges.
In particular, the difficulty in getting all of GT300’s teams to commit to the race, getting them to comply with the control/spec tyre regulations of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, and the challenges that would create to get the cars ready for the subsequent Super GT championship round at Buriram, Thailand.
A non-Super GT race counting for Super GT championship points has happened only once: The 2013 Asian Le Mans Series 3 Hours of Fuji was open to any and all GT300 teams and counted for Super GT points. However, only ten GT300 teams entered, angering a number of others.
We can also expect an announcement of the new Super GT event at Suzuka Circuit for 2018 and beyond at this year’s Suzuka 1000km – titled “Suzuka 1000km: The Final”.
No plans for GT500 BoP
Apart from a slight weight handicap for the mid-engined Honda NSX-GT and the standard application of Success Ballast, there is no Balance of Performance (BoP) for the GT500 class – and, as Chairman Bandoh puts it, there are no plans for it any time soon.
Upon being asked if BoP would be a possibility, given factors such as Lexus recent dominance and Honda’s lack of outright success, Bandoh put in no uncertain terms that, “Super GT is a competition which includes vehicle development, which has both its advantages and disadvantages, and therefore, there is no other choice but to tell your rivals to work harder and do their best.”
“The GT Association fully supports pure competition among all levels – on the race track and at the factories.”
And in the current endurance racing climate, that commitment to pure competition is a much welcome breath of fresh air.
Pros and cons of new Race Day format
Chairman Bandoh has also weighed the feedback from Super GT’s decision to eliminate the Free Practice session on the day of the race, in favour of an opening ceremony and driver introductions for the fans.
Bandoh understands that the teams would have liked to have the Practice time to help prepare the car for the race – which is why the warm-up session had been extended to twenty minutes.
The changes are made with the fan experience and engagement in mind. Since fan engagement programmes depend on the condition of the venue, the GT Association will be trying new ideas throughout 2017 and beyond.
Return to Autopolis about “bringing vitality” to Kyushu region
Lastly, the matter of Super GT’s upcoming return to Autopolis on May 20th-21st, an event that Chairman Bandoh hopes will bring vitality to the people in Kyushu following the Kumamoto Earthquakes of 2016.
Their goal for this event isn’t about box office numbers, but about providing a fun event and assisting in the reconstruction of the Kyushu region, and encourages everyone who can to come to the race at Autopolis.