Just a week after the 46th International Suzuka 1000km, many of Super GT’s top stars will be in action for the fifth round of the 2017 Super Taikyu Series, the ten-hour, crown jewel event known as the Fuji Super TEC at Fuji Speedway.
This year, the Super TEC endurance race will serve as the penultimate round of the Super Taikyu championship – with four of the seven class championships likely to be decided at the end of the longest endurance sports car race in Japanese domestic competition.
And with over forty active Super GT drivers on the entry list, plus a handful of the series’ legends, the quality of the field is in top form – and many expect the race itself to be as well.
As the longest event of the Super Taikyu calendar, the Fuji Super TEC is truly an outlier for all the teams. Many teams are bringing as many as four drivers to drive for them this weekend. Designated professional drivers can drive no more than 4 hours for their teams, and gentleman drivers have to drive at least 2 hours.
There’s also bonus points at stake. The winning team gets an additional 30 points on top of the bonus point they can earn just for finishing this grueling race, which will be four hours longer than the Suzuka 1000km, and will be as long as its successor the Suzuka 10 Hours next year.
The championships in ST-TCR, ST-2, ST-4, and ST-5 can be clinched depending on the outcome of the Fuji Super TEC, with the ST-1 title already guaranteed to the #31 Nissoku Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Katsuhito Ogawa/Masami Kageyama/Ryuichiro Tomita) just for entering each round.
All the #98 Modulo Honda Civic TCR has to do is finish ahead of the #45 Liqui Moly Audi RS3 LMS, and the inaugural ST-TCR Championship will go to Honda and the Dome Racing Team. A first or second place for the ST-4 Class #86 TOM’s Spirit Toyota 86 clinches the title for them.
In ST-2 and ST-5, just a race finish alone should be enough to clinch the class championships for the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI, and the #88 Murakami Motors Mazda Roadster respectively. That said, over ten hours, even seeing the chequered flag is not a guarantee, as 59 of the best-prepared GT3, TCR, and production sports cars do battle on track at the same time.
Then there’s the drivers, specifically the guest stars that will be taking part in the Fuji Super TEC – and there’s some very, very big names in among them.
Three-time GT500 Drivers’ Champion Juichi Wakisaka will return to the cockpit to drive the #10 RacingLine Performance Volkswagen Golf TCR, unfamiliar surroundings for the longtime Toyota pilot. Back from his commitments in WTCC, Ryo Michigami will return to the #97 Modulo Civic TCR, joining Shinichi Itoh, Hidenori Kouuchi, and Shinji Nakano. And rally legend Toshihiro Arai will help drive the #45 Liqui Moly RS3 alongside Shozo Tagahara, Takuya Shirasaka, and Naoto Takeda.
8-time Super Taikyu champion Nobuteru Taniguchi has been recruited to help TOWAINTEC Racing, Manabu Osawa, Hitoshi Gotoh and the #59 Subaru clinch the ST-2 championship, and fellow GT300 champion and legend Morio Nitta joins the reigning ST-3 champions Makoto Hotta and Ryohei Sakaguchi in the #38 muta Racing Lexus IS350.
There’s even a GT500 driver all the way down in the flyweight ST-5 class – that being Kazuya Oshima, in the #11 Team Blood Sports Toyota Vitz.
Together, they all join a list of notable Super Taikyu regulars such as Satoshi Motoyama, Tomoki Nojiri, Hironobu Yasuda, Naoki Hattori, Kenta Yamashita, Seiji Ara, Ryo Ogawa, Takamitsu Matsui, and the GT300 class winner at Suzuka, Naoya Gamou.
At the top of the card, however, it’s a much different story in the ST-X Class. All six full-time teams can move to the top of the standings, separated by just 26 points after four out of six rounds.
Last time out at Autopolis, the #8 ARN Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki/Tsubasa Mekaru) moved to the top of the championship standings after ending Nissan’s long winning streak with their first win of 2017. They now lead last year’s defending champions and Super TEC winners, the #1 ThreeBond Nissan Gakuen Tochigi GT-R (Yuudai Uchida/Tomonobu Fujii/Kazuki Hiramine) by six points.
Also in the lead group are the #99 Y’s Distraction GTNET GT-R (Tadao Uematsu/Kazuki Hoshino/Kiyoto Fujinami), third in the standings, ahead of the #3 Endless Advan GT-R (Yukinori Taniguchi/Hideki Yamauchi/Yuya Motojima) in fourth, and distant outsiders, the #89 HubAuto Ferrari 488 GT3 (Morris Chen/Hiroki Yoshimoto/Yuya Sakamoto/Shunsuke Kohno) in fifth, and the #777 D’station Porsche 911 GT3-R (Satoshi Hoshino/Seiji Ara/Tsubasa Kondo) sixth.
The outsider of that group, with a decent shot to upset those front runners, are CarGuy Racing and the #777 Roger Dubuis Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (Takeshi Kimura/Naoki Yokomizo/Afiq Yazid/Kei Cozzolino), driven to victory in the Blancpain GT Series Asia race at Fuji by Yokomizo and Cozzolino.
The race can be seen, live, free, and in its entirety on Super Taikyu TV, with an 8:00 AM JST (local) start time.