On Sunday, before the fifth round of the Autobacs Super GT Series at Fuji Speedway, GT Association (GTA) chairman Masaaki Bandoh gave his customary pre-race press conference to the media.
A few of the subjects covered included, but were not limited to, the potential introduction of a Full Course Yellow system, Mercedes-AMG’s sudden withdrawal from the DTM and its impacts on a potential collaboration with Super GT, and even the future of the Fuji GT 300km Race itself from 2018 and beyond.
Super GT considering introduction of FCY system
Since the start of the 2016 season, current Super GT regulations forbid teams from pitting under the Safety Car, as a countermeasure to the infamous pit lane traffic jam at Sugo in 2015. Two years later at Sugo, a race that involved three SC interventions dramatically altered the outcome of the race.
While the end result was an incredible finish in GT500, there were still some questions raised about Super GT’s current Safety Car procedures.
Chairman Bandoh commented that it would be possible for Super GT to implement a Full Course Yellow (FCY), aka a “Virtual Safety Car” or “Code 60” system, to neutralize the field in the event of a minor to moderate incident instead of a Safety Car or First Response Operation (FRO) vehicle intervention.
However, he also commented that due to the length of certain tracks such as Okayama and Sugo, it may be difficult to balance the effects of a FCY system. Chairman Bandoh says that the series is considering implementing a system that “best suits the circuits of Japan”, likely limiting speeds to 60 kilometers per hour under the FCY conditions.
The system was previously rumoured for a mid-2017 introduction, but was never confirmed as part of the revised 2017 Sporting Regulations.
Fuji “Summer Special” endurance race close to confirmation
On July 28, the 2018 Super GT calendar was officially released. The dates and circuits were confirmed, though no race distances were published.
While confirming the reasons for shifting certain venues in the calendar – Suzuka Circuit moves to May for the Suzuka GT 300km Race, the Buriram Super GT Race in Thailand moves to June-July, etc. – Chairman Bandoh also mentioned that it is “almost certain” that the Fuji GT 300km Race, held annually in August, will be extended to at least a 700 kilometer endurance race – the minimum distance to be considered an “endurance” event by the letter of the law in Super GT.
This would fill the void left behind by the Suzuka 1000km, which becomes the Suzuka 10 Hours from 2018 and officially joins the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge next year.
With both the Fuji 500km on Golden Week, and a potential 4-hour endurance race in the Summer, Fuji Speedway would thus stand to host the two biggest events on the Super GT calendar – in terms of distance and in stature – going forward from 2018.
Plans for DTM to move forward in spite of Mercedes withdrawal
Chairman Bandoh said that the ITR, promoters of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) championship, were more surprised over the sudden withdrawal of Mercedes-AMG effective after the 2018 season as the company shifts focus to Formula E.
After Bandoh met with ITR representatives in July, and Mercedes subsequently announced their exit plans, Bandoh then video conferenced with representatives of Audi and BMW with the plan to continue to work towards a cross-promotional race in the future.
Chairman Bandoh signed off by confidently stating that the sudden withdrawal of a major manufacturer such as Toyota, Nissan, or Honda would never happen in Super GT, adding that it would be impossible to break down what the series and its manufacturer partners have built up.