Over the weekend, during the Super Taikyu Series’ annual awards ceremony held near the site of the Tokyo Auto Salon in Chiba, Japan, came the announcement that Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli will become the title sponsor and tyre supplier of Japan’s longest-running endurance racing championship.
It’s the start of a new three-year deal in what will henceforth be known as the Pirelli Super Taikyu Series, which also announced its full 2018 schedule at the event.
Pirelli adds Super Taikyu to an ever-expanding portfolio in motorsport, the exclusive tyre supplier of the Formula 1 World Championship, Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series, the Blancpain GT Series and the related SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge, and the Pirelli World Challenge of the United States.
Ernesto Garcia Domingo, Motorsport Business Director at Pirelli, announced during a speech to the press that Pirelli would supply the same specification of tyre used in the Pirelli World Challenge.
“We are proud to enter the Japanese motorsport scene,” said Pirelli in their press release on Friday. “Japan was the last major country that was missing from our list, and we are glad to enter with the Super Taikyu Championship. Super Taikyu shines with its heritage, and its grid is representative of of all classes and major automakers.”
Pirelli replaces Yokohama as the exclusive tyre supplier of Super Taikyu, and crucially, it gives the prospective teams in the ST-X (GT3) and ST-Z (GT4) categories the ability to work with the tyres as they prepare to enter the Suzuka 10 Hours in August – which will also be exclusively supplied by Pirelli.
During the event, the series also announced an unchanged class structure for 2018, with participation finally expected in the ST-Z category after being unveiled along with the ST-TCR category in 2017.
The 2018 Pirelli Super Taikyu Series begins on April 1st with the Suzuka 4 Hours Endurance Race, which moves up from the third round of the schedule. Four weeks later, the series reconvenes on April 29 for the first of two double-header weekends at Sportsland SUGO, which will have two 3-hour races.
Then, the centerpiece event, held on June 2-3 – the Fuji Super TEC 24 Hour Race, Japan’s first 24-hour endurance race in a decade, and the first 24 Hour race at Fuji since 1968. Fuji International Speedway is preparing for the event by installing permanent LED digital flags around the circuit to prepare the drivers for the night-time conditions, and more visible timekeeping systems will be installed at the circuit as well.
Rounds 4 and 5 will be held at Autopolis on July 15, and Twin Ring Motegi on September 23. Both events will be held as a single 5-hour race for all classes, instead of the previous double-header events. The series will once again conclude at Okayama International Circuit with two 3-hour races on November 4.
The series expects up to 60 cars to enter the full Super Taikyu campaign, with up to 70 available for the Super TEC 24h.