19 current and former drivers from the Autobacs Super GT Series will make up the entry list of over 400 drivers from 161 teams in the 45th running of the ADAC 24 Hours Nürburgring, held at the daunting and demanding Nürburgring Nordschliefe circuit in Germany.
The Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24) stands as one of the oldest and most prestigious endurance races for production-based sports and touring cars, with 20 different classes of vehicles – from FIA GT3 sports cars, to TCR International touring cars, to various modified street-legal vehicles, and experimental machines – all on track tackling the fabled “Green Hell” for one of the great races around the clock.
And in among that diverse selection of vehicles are 9 drivers from this year’s Super GT Series, and 10 drivers from years’ past, who have ventured back to the Nürburgring to take on the challenge of the world’s most infamous motor racing circuit.
SP-9, the category for FIA homologated GT3 racing machines, has BMW Team Studie driver Jörg Müller going for his third overall N24 title, and Super GT rookie Sven Müller competing in this race for the first time with one of the most successful teams in the race.
The elder of the Müller clan, 47-year-old Jörg Müller won the Nürburgring 24 Hours previously in 2004, and again in 2010. For nearly twenty years, Müller has been one of the true mainstays of the BMW Motorsport racing family – and one of the most accomplished drivers to have ever competed in Super GT, having raced for BMW Team Studie since 2014.
Müller will be pulling double-duty as he drives both the #19 and #20 Schubert Motorsport BMW M6 GT3s.
His German compatriot, 25-year-old Sven Müller, is in this race for the first time – as the reigning Porsche Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup Germany champion, Müller is one of Porsche’s most prized young factory drivers.
Driving a partial Super GT campaign for D’station Racing and already a podium finisher just two races into his stint in Japan, Müller will drive one of three Porsche 911 GT3-Rs fielded by Manthey Racing – his will be the Pro-Am subcategory #59 Porsche.
There’s a number of ex-Super GT drivers competing in the top classes as well: Former Toyota Team SARD driver Romain Dumas and former Suzuka 1000km champion Frédéric Makowiecki will drive the #911 Manthey Porsche 911 GT3-R as part of an all-French driver lineup.
Of the current and former Super GT drivers in this year’s N24 field, Dumas has the most success at this event as a four-time overall winner (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) – and if he wins this year, he’ll tie the record of five wins, held by Timo Bernhard, Pedro Lamy, and Marcel Tiemann. He’s also the reigning World Endurance Drivers’ Champion and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Former Fuji 500km winner Peter Dumbreck and former GT300 class race winner Alex Imperatori will drive Falken Motorsports’ #33 BMW M6 GT3, while Jörg Bergmeister will drive Falken’s #44 Porsche 911 GT3-R.
BMW Team Studie third driver and 2010 N24 winner Augusto Farfus will also pull double-duty, driving both the #42 and #43 BMW M6 GT3s for BMW Team Schnitzer. Former Audi Team Racing Tech driver Christian Mamerow, a former overall winner in 2014, will drive for Bentley Team Abt in their #38 Bentley Continental GT3.
Another driver pulling double-duty is former GT500 race winner Dominik Schwager, who’ll drive not only the SP-X class Renault R.S. 01 for GTronix360 Team, but the SP-8 class Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo for Dörr Motorsport.
In SP-8, there is also Kota Sasaki, ace driver of the #30 Toyota Prius apr GT, a former GT300 champion, and GT300’s all-time record holder for career pole positions.
The 43-year-old Sasaki will drive a V8-powered track special sedan, the Lexus IS-F CCS-R, fielded by expert Lexus tuners Novel Japan.
For the Japanese fans tuning into this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, all eyes will be on the battle between Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) and Subaru Technica International (STI) in the SP3T Class. Last year, the Subaru WRX STI won the class for two-litre turbocharged specials, but Toyota are a perfect two-for-two in races that their Lexus RC has entered in 2017. To ratchet up the intensity, four current Super GT drivers will represent between TGR and STI.
The #170 Lexus RC turbo coupe, undefeated in SP3T competition in 2017, will feature an all-star lineup that includes reigning GT300 Drivers’ Champion Takamitsu Matsui (VivaC Team Tsuchiya), reigning Suzuka 1000km class winner Takuto Iguchi (R&D Sport), and Naoya Gamou (K2 R&D LEON Racing), who has quickly become one of GT300’s fastest individual drivers.
A class victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing would be a special occasion indeed – this year is TGR’s tenth anniversary at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Unlike recent years, the Lexus RC will be TGR’s sole entry from the main team.
“The car has been steadily improving through the testing in Japan and the preliminary races at the Nürburgring,” says Iguchi. “During the preliminary race, the car ran mostly trouble-free and the performance was almost too good in some ways, but you can never be sure what will happen in The 24 Hours of Nürburgring. I hope that the whole team will be able to maintain our focus and compete with a great sense of unity.”
To win the SP3T class, they’ll have to get through the STI Subaru squad, led by R&D Sport’s other ace driver, Hideki Yamauchi, who will drive on opposite sides of the paddock to his Super GT co-driver Iguchi. Yamauchi took his first Super GT win last August in the Suzuka 1000km, and has been steadily building a reputation as one of the top drivers in GT300.
Yamauchi was part of the winning team in 2016 – so too was former GT500 race winner Carlo van Dam, who returns to the team in 2017 to drive the blue #90 Subaru WRX STI sedan.
Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Thailand will represent Toyota’s efforts from Southeast Asia, with two Toyota Corolla Altis sedans in the SP3 category for naturally-aspirated two-litre specials.
In the #123 Corolla Altis are Panther Team Thailand’s Super GT drivers Nattavude Charoensukhawatana and Nattapong Horthongkum, as well as Suttipong Smittachartch, the team director of Panther Team Thailand.
Also representing the Super GT driver fraternity is 57-year-old Takayuki Kinoshita, in his 26th start at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, driving the #124 TGR Team Thailand Corolla Altis. Kinoshita is a former GT300 race winner, a former race winner in the All-Japan Touring Car Championship, and the all-time winningest driver in the history of the Super Taikyu Endurance Series.
Two other champions from the Super Taikyu series will also compete in SP3 in the Roadrunner Racing Renault Clio RS: Reigning ST-5 champion Junichi Umemoto (J’s Racing), and a former ST-5 champion, Kouichi Okumura (Birth Racing Project) – the latter of whom tested for Dijon Racing this March, and now drives in ST-TCR in an Audi RS3 LMS.
Radio Le Mans will carry uninterrupted coverage of the event for international viewers. J Sports will carry the race in Japan, with 13 and a half hours of live coverage on J Sports 3, and uninterrupted coverage on J Sports On Demand.