The 2017 Super Taikyu Series has seen three rounds of intriguing endurance racing so far, at Twin Ring Motegi, Sportsland Sugo, and most recently, at Suzuka Circuit for a four-hour endurance event.
Now the second half of the season begins this weekend at Autopolis circuit on Kyushu Island, for a weekend consisting of two three-hour races – and a weekend that could put a few teams closer to a championship in their respective classes.
Evaluating the very top of Group 1, in ST-X, the Nissan GT-R GT3s continue to lay waste to the competition through eleven consecutive victories in the class since 2015.
Yet amazingly enough, it’s still an incredibly close race for the ST-X Championship in 2017, with just 10 points separating the top four teams – led by the three Nissan teams, with the #3 Endless Advan GT-R (Yuke Taniguchi/Hideki Yamauchi/Yuya Motojima) at the top by virtue of three second-place finishes.
The #1 ThreeBond GT-R (Yuudai Uchida/Tomonobu Fujii/Kazuki Hiramine) will try and bounce back to the top of the standings after a compromised Suzuka 4h, while the Suzuka winners, the #99 Y’s Distraction GTNET GT-R (Tadao Uematsu/Kazuki Hoshino/Kiyoto Fujinami), will try and string together back-to-back victories and overhaul their GT-R stablemates.
With three poles, two podiums and a strong performance in their Blancpain GT Series Asia debut in June, the #8 ARN Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki) will try and lead the charge to end the GT-Rs’ winning streak. All the top four cars carry some form of success ballast – up to 60 kilograms in the case of the Endless and Threebond GT-Rs – so this could also be an opportunity for the #89 HubAuto Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Morris Chen/Hiroki Yoshimoto/Yuya Sakamoto) or the #777 D’station Porsche 911 GT3-R (Satoshi Hoshino/Seiji Ara/Tsubasa Kondo) to finally score their first podiums.
Likewise, the two Civic TCR Racing Project Hondas have dominated the ST-TCR class with three wins to open the season – despite superior pace from the Audi RS3 LMSes, in particular the #45 Liqui Moly RS3 (Shozo Tagahara/Takuya Shirasaka/Naoto Takeda) which has come close to back-to-back wins, only to lose out at Sugo and Suzuka in the final minutes.
The #98 Modulo Civic TCR (Takuya Kurosawa/Keishi Ishikawa/Hiroki Katoh) leads the standings by ten points after wins at Motegi and Suzuka, and the #97 Civic once again has a re-shuffled driver lineup: Former F1 driver Shinji Nakano, former MotoGP rider Shinichi Itoh, and the legendary “Drift King” himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya.
In ST-2, the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh) will try for three wins in a row in pursuit of wrapping up a fifth class title. However, in ST-3, it’s a close, close fight at the top with three Lexus luxury cars at the top – headlined by the #62 Denso Le Beausset RC350 (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama/Kenta Yamashita), which leads the standings after their win at Suzuka – Yamashita also has the advantage of having won at Autopolis in Super GT earlier this year.
In Group 2, there’s three clear-cut favourites for the ST-4 championship: The leaders, the #86 TOM’s Spirit Toyota 86 (Takamitsu Matsui/Naoya Gamou/Sho Tsuboi), have to fend off not only the defending champion #13 Endless Advan 86 (Ryo Ogawa/Tsubasa Takahashi/Masaya Hanazato), but a strong #93 SKR Engineering Honda S2000 (Yuya Ohta/Masahiro Sasaki) that’s been inspired to great results by the driving of Sasaki this year.
ST-5 will see the field try and take down the back-to-back class race winners, the #88 Murakami Motors Mazda Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami/Takeshi Wakitani/Masanobu Kato) – which is firmly in charge over its front-wheel drive subcompact rivals, and its fellow Roadster runners.
Super Taikyu’s sole all-female team, the #50 Love Drive Roadster, will have a new driver in Yumiko Sekizaki, partnering Marie Iwaoka and Enami Kitahira for her series debut in ST-5.
You’ll be able to catch all the action live and free on Super Taikyu TV this weekend! And per usual, Super GT World will provide updates throughout the weekend.