GT Association (GTA) chairman Masaaki Bandoh gave his customary pre-race press conference to the media on Sunday before the fourth round of the 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series at Sportsland Sugo.
Among the topics discussed at Chairman Bandoh’s press conference were the recent Balance of Performance adjustments in GT500, the speed of the GT300 class cars, and most notably of all – a glimpse into what the 2018 Autobacs Super GT Series calendar will look like, including the future of Super GT at Suzuka Circuit.
On the subject of GT500 BoP
Chairman Bandoh answered a question regarding the recent BoP adjustment for the Honda NSX-GT, which saw its minimum weight reduced by 15 kilograms prior to the Super GT in Kyushu 300km at Autopolis two months ago.
He remarked that the 15kg weight reduction had achieved the desired effect of bringing Honda closer to a level playing field with Lexus and Nissan, but also noted that the biggest contributor to the NSX-GT’s improved form was the extensive research and development carried out by HRD Sakura, Honda’s motorsports development company.
So far, Bandoh has heard no complaints from either Lexus or Nissan, and the car does seem much easier to drive at the limit than its predecessor, the Honda NSX Concept-GT.
Toyota Prius apr GT BoP
Only one GT300 car received a BoP adjustment for Sugo: The Toyota Prius apr GT, which saw a larger diameter air restrictor to give the car more power at the expense of additional weight.
Bandoh told the press that this move was due to the fact that the Prius’ RV8K engine – once used as Toyota’s GT500 powerplant as well as in their TS040 LMP1 Hybrid – has already completed development.
Bandoh also confirmed the reasons for the lack of BoP changes from Autopolis was due to the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO), who partners with the GT Association to administer BoP changes for the FIA GT3 cars, classifying Autopolis and Sugo as similar categories of circuits.
GT500 versus GT300
It wasn’t all that long ago that many were worried about GT300 cars getting too close to GT500 cars in terms of pace and performance. Now Chairman Bandoh has said that the speed difference between GT500 and GT300 may be up for review again in the future, if the FIA GT3 cars continue to get faster over the years to come.
The difference in lap times between the two categories was 7-8 seconds at Sugo this weekend. Bandoh remarked that while categories like Formula 1 are in pursuit of record-breaking speeds, that safety is also important – hence the recent downforce reductions in GT500, which has slowed the premier class down by about a second a lap at most venues.
Suzuka 1000km guest driver Jenson Button was among those to comment on how hard the GT300 cars were to overtake, mainly in a straight line, during the two-day official test at Suzuka Circuit on June 30 & July 1.
The 2018 Calendar: Suzuka, Buriram, Sepang and More
The official 2018 Super GT schedule will be finalized sometime after this coming week, but at Sunday’s press conference, Chairman Bandoh confirmed the future for Super GT at Suzuka Circuit from 2018 onward after the conclusion of the 46th and final International Suzuka 1000km.
Starting in 2018, the Suzuka GT 300km Race will return to the calendar. Held from 1995 to 2010, the Suzuka 300km was part of the Super GT championship calendar well before the Suzuka 1000km, typically as either a season opening round, or as the final round of the season. It could return to the calendar during the first part of the season, during the month of May and after the Fuji 500km on Golden Week.
The Buriram Super GT Race in Thailand will return in 2018, on a one-year contract due to recent economic hardships. It may also move from its current date in October at the end of the season, to a new date in June some time before or after the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Chairman Bandoh also mentioned that the Fuji GT 300km Race may also be extended into a longer-distance event, up to a 700 kilometer endurance race which would pay as many points as the Suzuka 1000km.
With these moves, AUTOSPORTweb speculated that Sugo would move from July to September, and Autopolis would move from May to October – where both events were held in 2015.
Special thanks to Geinou of RacingBlog.de for providing translations and additional context.