Team JLOC (Japan Lamborghini Owner’s Club) have confirmed their full-season driver lineup for the 2018 Autobacs Super GT Series on Monday, as they prepare for their 25th successive season in All-Japan GT/Super GT competition.
Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver Marco Mapelli will join the returning young ace Kazuki Hiramine aboard JLOC’s flagship #88 ManePa Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for the 2018 season, while after a partial season slate with JLOC in 2017, Yuya Motojima has been promoted to a full-time ride alongside Kimiya Sato in the #87 Legal Frontier Lamborghini GT3.
JLOC are one of the few teams who’ve run every season of Super GT competition, beginning in GT500 in 1994, before moving to the GT300 class in mid-2005. They’ve even contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a privateer team on a number of occasions.
The two-car squad at JLOC showed flashes of speed last year, with their best result coming at last year’s Suzuka 1000km when they finished 2nd and 3rd in the GT300 class. For their loyalty to the championship, however, Team JLOC have yet to enjoy sustained success: Two victories at Suzuka in 2006, and Sugo in 2014, are their only two wins as a team.
But veteran team manager Isao Noritake and his team roll into 2018 with a renewed lineup and renewed hope of success.
In the #88 car, which finished 10th in last year’s GT300 championships, 26-year-old Kazuki Hiramine is elevated to the team’s “A” driver with the departure of longtime JLOC captain Manabu Orido.
Hiramine, the 2012 All-Japan F3 National Class runner-up, a former Honda Formula Dream Project (HDFP) prospect, and 2016 Super Taikyu ST-X champion, has 23 career Super GT starts, with his 2nd place at Suzuka last August representing his best career finish.
Replacing Orido in the #88 car is 30-year-old Marco Mapelli of Italy, who was announced as one of the team’s drivers in February with the rest of Lamborghini’s factory GT racing activities.
Mapelli will dovetail his Super GT programme with JLOC with a full-season drive in the Blancpain GT Asia Series with the FFF Racing Team by ACM. Mapelli joined Lamborghini Squadra Corse in 2017 in the midst of a productive sports car racing career that’s included an Italian GT Championship title in 2010, and a 2nd overall finish in the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour – the race won by GT500 star Katsumasa Chiyo.
He held the production car lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschliefe from October 2016 until November 2017.
The #87 car has a new title sponsor in Legal Frontier, and a renewed driver lineup for 2018. Replacing veteran driver Shinya Hosokawa is 26-year-old Yuya Motojima, who split a part-time schedule between Team JLOC and D’station Racing in 2017.
Motojima won the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Japan with a near-perfect record of 9 wins from 10 races with only one mechanical DNS preventing him from matching Hideto Yasuoka’s mark in 2011. He is a two-time Super Taikyu champion, and after making his debut in 2016 with Team Taisan SARD, Motojima scored his first podium finish in Super GT last August at Suzuka.
His co-driver is the returning former single-seater racer Kimiya Sato, who won the Auto GP World Series in 2014 before making the switch to Super GT in 2015. Before that, Sa
Like Motojima, Sato’s first podium in Super GT also came in last year’s Suzuka 1000km, with Sato, Motojima, and Hosokawa finishing 13th in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship after also finishing 4th in the Fuji 500km.
JLOC have also announced a one-race collaboration with EVA Racing for the Suzuka 10 Hours, where they’ll be joined by former Lexus GT500 star Andrea Caldarelli and Dijon Racing driver Taiyou Iida.
The cars will carry the iconic liveries of the EVA Units 01 and 02 from the animated series Neon Genesis Evangelion.