On Sunday morning, GT Association (GTA) chairman Masaaki Bandoh delivered his customary pre-race press conference before the Super GT in Kyushu 300km at Autopolis.
Many subjects were addressed during Bandoh’s press conference, as it pertains to Balance of Performance – and in particular, the recent 15 kilogram weight deduction for the Honda NSX-GTs going into this third round of the championship, as well as an update on the agreement between Super GT and the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), the 2018 Super GT race at Suzuka Circuit, and of course, Super GT’s return to Autopolis.
Special thanks to our friend Geinou of RacingBlog.de who provided translations of Bandoh’s remarks.
On returning to Autopolis
One year after the Kumamoto Earthquakes of 2016 that damaged the Autopolis circuit beyond repair for a race last year, 28,670 spectators came to Autopolis this weekend – with 18,200 coming to the track on Sunday.
Chairman Bandoh explained that the GTA thoroughly investigated Autopolis after the earthquakes last April, before making the decision to cancel (and later reschedule and relocate) the race. At the same time, Bandoh gave a lot of thought and consideration as to how holding this race would have affected the locals in Oita Prefecture, just north of the quake-stricken Kumamoto.
Bandoh explained that Super GT wants to forge a relationship with the locals at each venue of the calendar – and before the race, he told all the teams and drivers to put on a good race for the people who suffered from the earthquakes. He added that Super GT’s goal for the weekend was to hold a race for the people to put aside the tragedies of last year, if only for a day. Mission accomplished on that part.
Honda’s re-balancing act
The biggest bit of competitive news going into this weekend’s race was Honda’s 15kg weight reduction. According to Chairman Bandoh, Honda had been requesting a change of the minimum weight of the NSX-GT for two years. There is no general Balance of Performance in GT500, apart from the minimum weight of the mid-engined Honda NSX-GT – and none is in the plans, as Bandoh stated at Fuji.
When Honda dropped the hybrid system from the previous NSX Concept-GT in 2016, they received a minimum weight adjustment of 29 kilograms more than the front-engined cars from Lexus and Nissan. With the new 2017 NSX-GT, the GTA wanted to give the car a weight reduction – citing Article 24 in the Super GT Sporting Regulations that allowed for “irregular special adjustments.”
But the GTA needed to wait at least two rounds to judge its initial performance at the technical Okayama International Circuit and the high-speed Fuji Speedway.
After consulting several experts after the first two rounds, the GT Association decided to reduce the Honda NSX-GT’s minimum weight from 1049kg to 1034kg. This adjustment applies only to the NSX-GT – so, in the very unlikely event that a fourth manufacturer built a mid-engined GT500 car under the current regulations, they would be required to be at a minimum weight of 1049kg.
Chairman Bandoh says that no plans are in place to adjust the weight of the Lexus LC500 or Nissan GT-R, and added that such adjustments are a difficult task, with no universally correct answers.
No plans for JAF-GT300/MC balance changes
There have been no changes in BoP for the JAF-GT300 and Mother Chassis cars in 2017 through 3 rounds. Chairman Bandoh says that, going by the results of the first two rounds of the season, that there was no need to change the BoP of the cars as compared to their FIA GT3 rivals.
However, adjustments may be made for future rounds, based on the results of each round in the championship to follow.
Updates on Super GT/DTM agreement + Audi builds an NRE powerplant!
Chairman Bandoh met with new ITR chairman Gerhard Berger during the opening round of the DTM season at Hockenheim, as well as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. During the meetings, they talked about the future collaboration between Super GT and DTM, still a work in progress, which they hope to continue.
The basic agreement between the GTA & ITR is expected to be reconfirmed in the next six weeks, with ITR Chairman Berger expected to visit Japan in the next few months.
Chairman Bandoh also told Car Watch magazine that he has seen Audi’s first two-litre, turbocharged Nippon Race Engine (NRE) compliant-powerplant at Audi Germany. Racecar Engineering deputy editor and NISMO TV lead announcer Sam Collins reported last year that Audi were developing a new two-litre turbo 4-cylinder race engine, and of the three DTM manufacturers, Audi have been the most receptive about the potential new engine formula.
Either BMW or Mercedes-Benz have blocked the idea of spending money on an NRE-type engine for the DTM, though that has not been confirmed by either party. In years past, it had seemed like BMW were the closest to entering a car in GT500 out of the “Big Three” from Germany. Now it is clear that Audi is leading the charge on this front.
2018 Super GT at Suzuka update
Full details of the new Super GT series event at Suzuka Circuit from 2018 have yet to be announced, with the announcement expected to come on the weekend of the 46th International Suzuka 1000km: The Final, on August 27.
Chairman Bandoh told Car Watch that among the dates he’s considering for the new Suzuka event is one week after the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, which would be during a rainy season in Japan. The old Suzuka GT 300km Race was typically held at or near the start or the end of the Super GT season from 1995 to 2010.
Advance ticket sales have begun for the 46th Suzuka 1000km on the Mobilityland Online Shop.