During the first official pre-season test at Okayama International Circuit for the 2018 Autobacs Super GT Series, seven drivers passed the series’ mandatory rookie & refresher test during the two days of testing.
Rookie candidates Ritomo Miyata (LM Corsa), Hiroki Otsu (Modulo Drago Corse), Marco Mapelli (Money Partners JLOC), Takeshi Kimura (CarGuy Racing), Ryo Ogawa (EIcars Bentley), and Yuya Hiraki ( completed twelve consecutive incident-free laps above the designated benchmark time by the GT Association (GTA) driving standards stewards.
In addition, Ryo Michigami – a veteran of 125 Super GT races over 18 seasons in Super GT – passed it as a refresher test, in preparation for his first Super GT racing activity since 2014.
To maintain acceptable driving standards in Super GT, prospective drivers must be able to complete the series’ rookie test: Twelve consecutive laps on track while respecting basic on-track manners – they cannot leave the track, or be involved in an on-track incident either on their own or involving any other drivers.
Drivers subject to the test fall under the following categories:
- GT300 Drivers competing in Super GT for the very first time.
- GT300 Drivers who have not competed in Super GT in two seasons or more.
- Drivers who conditionally passed the 2017 test but were not given a racing license.
- Any other teams and drivers specifically selected by the GT Association.
Six of the drivers who passed completed their rookie & refresher test on Saturday, including Michigami, who has not raced in Super GT as a driver since the 2014 Suzuka 1000km – so despite his prior experience, the 2000 GT500 Drivers’ Champion was subject to re-take the test – which he passed successfully.
So too did two-time Japanese F4 Champion and Toyota Young Driver Program (TDP) prospect Miyata (above), and Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver Mapelli.
Takeshi Kimura was the only “gentleman driver” subject to the test, and after Takayuki Hiranuma failed to pass his rookie test in 2017, there was perhaps some concern going into the test over whether Kimura would meet the benchmark. Thankfully, with the support of his teammates including co-driver Naoki Yokomizo and team director Kei Cozzolino, Kimura passed his test without incident, meeting the benchmark time.
Ogawa originally passed the test in 2016 in preparing for a potential one-off drive with Lamborghini Team Direction, but the deal never came through and after sitting out 2017, Ogawa passed the test for the second time, this time for EIcars Bentley.
Hiraki had only one day to pass the test for Team Mach, but the Japanese F4 graduate did complete his rookie test without trouble. On Sunday, Otsu passed his rookie test, making the Honda-backed young driver eligible to race this season.
At this week’s test at Fuji Speedway, there will be more drivers trying to complete their rookie tests. Takuro Shinohara, third driver for Audi Team Hitotsuyama, did not get enough time in the car at Okayama to complete the test. Richard Bradley and Jules Gounon should have little trouble passing the test for Dijon Racing and EIcars Bentley respectively – but Dijon Racing still need to repair their #48 Nissan GT-R GT3 after a crash at Fuji Speedway.
Felix Rosenqvist (Lexus Team LeMans Wako’s) should not be subjected to the rookie test, given that he will debut immediately into GT500 with a proven track record in other professional championships including Super Formula, Formula E, and DTM. If he does, he’ll need to pass it this weekend – which should be no problem at all for the Swede.