64 teams will make the annual late July venture to the Circuit du Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the 69th annual 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the crown jewel of global GT3 endurance racing, and the marquee event of the Blancpain GT Series – an event with a history dating back to 1923.
With a field loaded with the finest stars in global endurance racing, there are also 12 drivers representing the past, and the present of the Autobacs Super GT Series: From current GT500 stars such as Katsumasa Chiyo and Andrea Caldarelli, to Goodsmile Racing with Team UKYO making their one-off European debut, the Super GT contingent at Spa will be well represented in this race around the clock on July 29 & 30.
The most pertinent entry in the field from a Super GT fan’s perspective has to be GSR with Team UKYO – who partner with British-based RAM Racing for their Spa 24 Hours debut. Fielding a Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a special one-off livery, Goodsmile Racing will be up for a tough challenge in their maiden voyage to Spa-Francorchamps.
All three of GSR’s drivers are making their debuts in this race: Along with the two-time GT300 champion duo of Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka who race for GSR in Super GT, it’ll also be the GT3 racing debut of their third driver – from Toyota Gazoo Racing, set to make his Super GT debut next month at the 46th and final International Suzuka 1000km, Kamui Kobayashi, whose blistering speed at Le Mans in June went unrewarded.
As the sole Japanese entry in the race, Goodsmile Racing, under the direction of former Le Mans runner up and former F1 hero Ukyo Katayama, will carry the hopes of a nation – and a dedicated legion of the team’s supporters from all over the globe – with them into this daunting race against the clock.
But they won’t be the only Super GT representatives on the grid.
The NISMO-backed Motul Team RJN will bring their two Nissan GT-R GT3s to the fabled Belgian circuit, anchored by the #23 Motul Nissan GT-R piloted by current GT500 driver Katsumasa Chiyo, former GT300 race winner and charter GT Academy graduate Lucas Ordoñez, alongside fellow GT Academy winner Alex Buncombe.
Chiyo, the former Bathurst 12 Hour champion and first Japanese driver to win a major title in an SRO-sanctioned championship, is also coming off his best result of the season in Blancpain GT – 5th at the 1000km of Le Castellet in France, and his best Super GT result of the season, 2nd a week ago at Sportsland Sugo in that thrilling battle.
“I didn’t get to race at Spa last year, so I am really looking forward to heading back for this year’s race,” Chiyo said. “There is no doubt it is one of the greatest tracks in the world and the level of competition with well over 50 cars is going to be intense.”
They’ll seek to replicate NISMO’s victory with the original R32 Skyline GT-R in 1991, piloted by former GT500 champion David Brabham, and former Japanese touring car champions Naoki Hattori and the late Anders Olofsson.
The current GT500 championship leader is also in action: Andrea Caldarelli, who took the lead in the standings for Lexus Team Wako’s LeMans at Sugo thanks to a third-place finish, will step back in the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of the Grasser Racing Team.
Caldarelli, along with regular GRT Blancpain co-drivers Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti, won both the 3 Hour Endurance Cup races at Silverstone Circuit, and at Caldarelli’s home circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy.
Team WRT have been established as one of the forces of the Blancpain GT Series, and their massive collection Audi R8 LMS will also be bolstered by the addition of two of Super GT’s most revered former champions – André Lotterer, and Benoît Tréluyer, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans together with Audi three times in a span of four years.
2008 GT500 Champion Tréluyer joins countryman Nathanael Berthon and Stephane Richelmi in the #6 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, and Lotterer, a two-time GT500 champion, is in the #5 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 as a last-minute addition to a lineup also including former Le Mans running mate Marcel Fässler, and reigning GTE-Am class winner at Le Mans, Dries Vanthoor.
Former GT500 alumni Oliver Jarvis is also in the field, driving the #7 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental alongside Guy Smith, and Steven Kane – who recently tested for EIcars Bentley TTO at Fuji International Speedway a few weeks ago.
Emil Frey Jaguar Racing are confident of their chances to upset the field in their in-house built Jaguar XKRs: In the #114 Jaguar, Christian Klien – who will join Team Taisan SARD for the Suzuka 1000km this August – will partner Jonathan Hirschi and Marco Seefried.
Two current GT300 drivers will also drive in the Pro-Am Cup sub-category: In another Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry, the #3 Audi R8 LMS of Josh Caygill, Jon Venter, and Niki Mayr Melnof will be joined by former GT500 Drivers’ Champion, and current Audi Team Hitotsuyama driver Richard Lyons.
And driving the #912 Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-R, it’ll be 2017 Super GT rookie and Porsche Motorsport factory racer Sven Müller joining Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, and Mathieu Jaminet. Müller has been away from Super GT for the last two months due to racing commitments in Germany, but will be back for the Suzuka 1000km in August.
The race begins at 4:30 PM CEST on Saturday, July 29.