On Monday, the GT Association (GTA), promoter of the Autobacs Super GT Series, released the entry list for the fifth round of the 2018 season – Super GT’s newest endurance racing tradition, the Fuji GT 500 Mile Race.
All 44 cars and an even 100 drivers are entered into the Fuji 500 Miles, with 12 third drivers entered into the GT300 class for the biggest race of the season on 4-5 August. Here’s how the entry list shakes down:
Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi picked up a big win for the #39 Denso Kobelco SARD LC500 at Chang International Circuit, but with their success comes the first “Stage 2” fuel flow restrictor to be implimented this season. On top of 36 kilograms of physical weight, the Denso LC500’s fuel flow rate will also be slashed to 88.6 kilograms per hour.
Five cars will be on the “Stage 1” fuel flow restrictor at 91.8 kg/h: The #100 Raybrig NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Jenson Button), the #23 Motul Autech GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli), the #1 KeePer TOM’s LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy), the #6 Wako’s 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima/Felix Rosenqvist), and the #38 ZENT Cerumo LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa/Hiroaki Ishiura). This will make Matsuda and Quintarelli’s quest to become the fourth team to win both Fuji races in a Super GT season a bit tricky.
When the Suzuka 1000km was the Super GT Series’ endurance race from 2006 to 2017, no team won the race with more than 48 kilograms of Success Ballast onboard, and no team has won it with a fuel flow restrictor installed.
After missing the Fuji 500km due to their commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship, both Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima (#36 au TOM’s LC500) will get their chance to tackle the 4.5 kilometer Fuji Speedway for the first time in sports cars this year.
All 29 “regular” GT300 cars are back on the grid together after seven teams elected to skip the last round in Thailand. And of those 29 teams, 12 of them are rolling out with three-driver lineups.
The biggest international guest star on the grid by far will be Bentley Motorsport factory racing driver Jules Gounon, the second-generation Frenchman joining EIcars Bentley and veteran drivers Yuji Ide and Ryohei Sakaguchi in the #117 EIcars Bentley GT3. Gounon is the reigning ADAC GT Masters champion of Germany, the reigning champion of the Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, and finished 2nd in the 6 Hours of Le Castellet, the most recent round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
Those include two two-time GT300 champions who return to Super GT racing action for the first time in 2018. 1997 and 2009 champion Manabu “Max” Orido will drive the #30 Toyota Prius apr GT alongside Hiroaki Nagai and Kota Sasaki, bringing one of Super GT’s most popular drivers back into the fold. Orido has been serving as an executive advisor to Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh.
Also back in action is Masataka Yanagida, in the #360 RunUp Rivaux Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. The two-time dual class champion comes back into action for a team that also regains the services of Yusaku Shibata, returning from a four-month layoff following injuries sustained in the Okayama GT 300km Race in April, partnering Takayuki Aoki.
2012 GT300 champion Kyosuke Mineo returns to the #9 Gulf NAC Porsche 911 GT3-R that he drove with Jono Lester to 8th in the 2017 championship. Mineo will partner regular drivers Rintaro Kubo and Keishi Ishikawa.
Kiyoto Fujinami also returns to the team that he raced for in 2017: He’ll partner Natsu Sakaguchi and Yuya Hiraki in the #5 Mach Syaken MC86 Y’s Distraction for Team Mach – Fujinami is leading the ST-X Championship in the Pirelli Super Taikyu Series, and won the Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours this June.
And Masayuki Ueda will make it three gentleman drivers over the age of 55 in the #22 R’Qs Mercedes-AMG GT3. They all join third drivers who participated in the Fuji 500km: Takuro Shinohara (#21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS), Tsubasa Kondo (#25 Hoppy 86 MC), Shinji Nakano (#26 Taisan R8 Fukushima), Richard Bradley (#48 Shokumou.jp GT-R), Yuya Sakamoto (#50 EXE AMG GT3), and Tsubasa Takahashi (#87 Legal Frontier Lamborghini Huracán GT3).
The championship-leading #11 Gainer TanaX GT-R of Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda will have the heaviest Success Ballast handicap, 74 kilograms on board for the Fuji 500 Miles.