For the third time in as many seasons, the familiar colors of the Gulf Porsche 911 GT3-R will have a brand new driver lineup behid it for the 2018 Autobacs Super GT Series.
On Wednesday, Pacific with Gulf Racing, the joint venture of Pacific Racing Team and Gulf Racing Japan, confirmed the new driver lineup of Rintaro Kubo and Keishi Ishikawa for 2018, who replace the departing Jono Lester and Kyosuke Mineo.
Lester and Mineo announced last week via social media that they would not return to the team this season, with Lester citing budget cuts within the team as part of the decision to go with an all-new driver combination for 2018. This despite a season where the team finished an impressive 8th in the GT300 Championship, with a maiden podium finish at Okayama, and six top-10 finishes.
Preceding Lester and Mineo were Ryohei Sakaguchi and Hiroki Yoshida, who drove the #9 Gulf NAC Porsche 911 GT3-R in 2016.
It’s the third new driver lineup in as many years for Pacific & Gulf Racing, and its the third different team in as many seasons for 24-year-old Rintaro Kubo of Chiba, the 2013 Super FJ champion and former standout of the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan and Toyota 86/BRZ Race.
Kubo drove for independents Arnage Racing in his rookie year of 2016, then moved on to apr Racing last season to drive the #31 Toyota Prius apr GT. Kubo’s season was highlighted by his first career Super GT podium finish in the Fuji GT 300km Race last August.
Kubo and Koki Saga finished 16th in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship, with 17 points and three top-10 finishes.
23-year-old Ishikawa, of Osaka, is entering his second full season of competition having moved over from Rn-sports and their Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The former Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP) prospect and graduate of the All-Japan Formula Three Championship finished six races last year, and was regularly the pacesetter aboard the #111 EVA RT Test-01 Rn-sports AMG GT3 – twice, he got the car into Q2 at the Fuji Speedway rounds with a couple of fast qualifying laps.
Ishikawa also captured a championship in the Pirelli Super Taikyu Series last year, driving the Honda Civic TCR of the Modulo Dome Racing Project to the inaugural ST-TCR class championship with Hiroki Katoh and Takuya Kurosawa.
Yasushi Kikuchi will continue as the team director, and the students of the Nakanihon Automotive College (NAC) will continue their long-time relationship with Pacific Racing by handling the maitenance of the car.