The GT Association, sanctioning body and promoter of the Autobacs Super GT Series, have officially published the entry list for the 46th and final running of the International Suzuka 1000km at Suzuka Circuit on August 26-27.
Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Jenson Button and Le Mans track record holder Kamui Kobayashi headline the list of 103 drivers representing 45 teams in the field for the last running of the Suzuka summer endurance race as we know it now.
This will be the final Suzuka summer endurance race for the fifteen GT500 cars in the field. There are no changes in the driver lineup, apart from the addition of Button in the #16 Motul Mugen NSX-GT, and Kobayashi in the #19 WedsSport Advan LC500.
Both guest drivers’ cars carry under 50 kilograms’ of Success Ballast and no fuel-flow restrictors, two of eight cars in the field under that threshhold. Since the Suzuka 1000km was added to the Super GT calendar in 2006, no GT500 team has ever won the race carrying more than 48 kilos of ballast.
At 88 kilograms with a Stage 3 fuel flow restrictor (87.4 kg/h), the #36 au TOM’s LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima/James Rossiter) will be the heaviest car on the GT500 field.
In GT300, all thirty cars will be entered – with eleven registered third drivers on board.
Tsubasa Kondo will return for his second race of the year, partnering Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita aboard the #25 VivaC 86 MC. Kondo is last year’s reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Japan champion, partnering last year’s GT300 champion Matsui and last year’s Formula 3 champion Yamashita, this is one of the most formidable trios on paper.
The most prolific of the international “black aces” is Brazilian BMW factory driver Augusto Farfus, the former DTM and WTCC race winner returning for his third Suzuka 1000km in four years with BMW Team Studie. Farfus will look to help Jörg Müller, Seiji Ara, and the entire Studie crew atone for not even getting the chance to start the 2016 event.
Yuya Motojima will return to Team JLOC pilot the #87 Shop Channel Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Shinya Hosokawa and Kimiya Sato. Motojima finished fourth in the #87 Lamborghini at the Fuji 500km, and has spent the last two races subbing for an injured André Couto at D’station Racing.
And in the #88 ManePa Lamborghini Huracán GT3, Manabu Orido and Kazuki Hiramine will be joined by longtime JLOC stalwart Koji Yamanishi, the 39-year-old returning to the series for the first time since 2015. Yamanishi is the youngest GT500 race winner in history, and spent twelve seasons at JLOC from 2003 to 2015.
Former three-time GT300 class winner at the 1000km, Takayuki Aoki will make his fourth entry into Tomei Sports’ #360 RunUp Nissan GT-R GT3, partnering Yusaku Shibata and Atsushi Tanaka.
Team Mach director Tetsuji Tamanaka will come out of retirement for what should be his last race as a driver, the 55-year-old will partner rookies Natsu Sakaguchi and Kiyoto Fujinami in the #5 Mach Syaken MC86 GTNET. Rn-sports team director Masayuki Ueda is also climbing back aboard the cockpit, driving the #111 EVA RT TEST-01 Rn-sports Mercedes-AMG GT3 with his own all-rookie duo of Keishi Ishikawa and Ryosei Yamashita.
Another ex-Formula 1 pilot, former Red Bull driver Christian Klien, joins Team Taisan SARD for his second go-round at the 1000km, where he’ll drive alongside young Shinnosuke Yamada and rookie Jake Parsons. Klien has been driving in the Blancpain GT Series with Emil Frey Jaguar Racing, who are in the midst of a breakout season.
2002 GT300 class winner Shogo Mitsuyama makes his season debut with Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave in the #52 GreenBrave Toyota Mark X MC, partnering Taku Bamba and two-time overall winner Shigekazu Wakisaka.
The #48 Shokumou.jp GT-R of Dijon Racing welcomes aboard former GT500 Drivers’ Champion Masami Kageyama to drive with Hiroshi Takamori and Masaki Tanaka. This will mean that the 50-year-old veteran will have now driven in twenty-four consecutive JGTC & Super GT seasons, the only driver to appear in at least one race in every full season.
Completing the list of third drivers for the race will be Hiroshi Hamaguchi, who’s been busy competing overseas in the International GT Open, but will return to pilot the #2 Syntium Apple Lotus Evora MC alongside Kazuho Takahashi and Hiroki Katoh. Hamaguchi last drove for the team in 2015.
And completing the list of changes, young Porsche factory racing star Sven Müller returns to the series after a three-month leave of absence, returning to the #33 D’station Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R alongside Tomonobu Fujii.