Reported from the floor of the Tokyo Auto Salon by Super GT pit reporter Amie Izawa, LM Corsa and Osaka Toyopet confirmed a personnel change first reported a week ago on the TV Tokyo digest show Super GT+.
Two-time FIA F4 Japanese Champion, and Toyota Young Driver Programme (TDP) prodigy Ritomo Miyata will join veteran Hiroki Yoshimoto in the #60 Syntium LM Corsa Lexus RC F for the 2018 season.
Akira Iida, after four seasons of driving for the team, and eighteen total seasons as a driver in Super GT, will step away from active driving duties to take over as the team director.
18-year-old Miyata joins an already intriguing rookie class for 2018, which also includes fellow All-Japan Formula 3 graduate, Hiroki Otsu, who is making his Super GT debut with Modulo Drago Corse.
The 2016 and 2017 F4 Japanese Champion finished 4th in his rookie year in Formula 3, with 10 podiums from 18 starts and two fastest lap bonuses.
Miyata, who is on the autism spectrum, will be the youngest driver on the grid in 2018 – and the youngest full-time driver since Hayanari Shimoda, who made his series debut in 2002 at just 17 years old.
Iida, who turned 48 last month, confirmed that he would become the team director in 2018 after driving for the LM Corsa/Osaka Toyopet squad for the last four seasons of his Super GT career.
It will not be Iida’s first venture into team directorship: In 2008, he served as director of Lexus Team SARD, before being called back into active driving duty in the middle of the year to replace Daisuke Ito as he battled back from a severe head injury sustained while filming for Hot Version video car magazine.
Four years later, Iida was named director of Lexus Team KeePer Kraft, where he led young drivers Yuji Kunimoto and Andrea Caldarelli to a second-place finish at the Suzuka 1000km – before the team folded at the end of the 2012 season.
It is likely that Iida, winner of the 2002 GT500 Drivers’ Championship with Toyota Team LeMans, the GT2 class at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a three-time Nürburgring 24 Hours class winner, has driven his last race in Super GT after a career spanning nearly three decades.
Yoshimoto, meanwhile, will continue on as the team’s ace driver, having led LM Corsa to 12th in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship with two top-5 finishes at Sugo and Suzuka.
The 37-year-old driver and pop singer has six career GT300 class victories, three of which came at the Suzuka 1000km (2007, 2012, 2014) including his most recent victory in the 2014 race.
The team will continue to use Yokohama Advan tyres in 2018, while the other LM Corsa entry, run by INGING Motorsports, will use Bridgestone Potenza tyres.