The Fuji 500: Super GT’s Big Week
Fuji Fast

If you live in Japan, the first week of May is good news. It means a string of holidays, one of the longest in the year for most people. Japanese like it so much they call it the Golden Week. And if you like racing, Golden Week means cladding yourself in your favorite team garb, pack your camping gear and heading to Fuji Speedway with 85,000 other fans for the Fuji Super GT 500km race, traditionally held the 3rd and 4th of May.

This is one of two anchor events on the Super GT calendar with the Suzuka 1000km, and the most attended Japanese motorsport event outside the Japanese Grand Prix.


Super GT is in a good place right now. The current generation of GT500 cars is maturing well in its third year with the usual 15 entrants, and the GT300 category is in full bloom with a huge influx of new machinery this year, be them local or imported. No less than 29 cars showed up at Fuji to contest the GT300 class.


Furthermore, thinly veiled factory involvement is more obvious than ever with a glance at the factory drivers roll call, the German and Italian dialect overheard in the paddock, and the car liveries. Take the Studie BMW M6 GT3 with its very BMW Motorsport-esque stripes and veteran factory top gun Jörg Müller at the wheel for example.


The big bad M6 GT3 is also the choice of ARTA for 2016, of course sporting the signature Autobacs orange livery, giving it an incredible presence. It took the pole position on Saturday and finished second in the race, under the watchful eye of team principal Keiichi ‘Dorikin’ Tsuchiya who knows a thing or two about grip and GT racing as well.


Factory backing is not limited to foreign manufacturers and cannot be more obvious than it is at R&D Sport, the entrant of the Subaru BRZ. An army of Subaru mechanics and engineers look after the car, here seen going through the engine and transmission warm-up sequence before the race morning free practice. Ah, the sweet barks of a race-prepared EJ20 in the early morning… Unfortunately for the hard working STI crew, the BRZ is struggling year in year out since its debut in 2012, with the occasional brilliant performance usually followed by some stroke of bad luck. Its biggest problem since last year is the arrival of the Toyota 86 MC – its seemingly closely related sibling.


However, this first glance is very misleading. The Toyota 86 MC (as in Mother Chassis) has basically only headlights in common with its Subaru alter ego. It is a silhouette build around a carbon tub and a GTA-branded 4.5L naturally aspirated V8 engine sourced from a Japanese manufacturer which is definitely not Toyota. Three examples have competed in GT300 since last season with increasing success, particularly the one entered by Tsuchiya Engineering, at the forefront of 86 MC development. The VivaC MC 86 won at Sugo last year and started the 2016 season with a pole position at Okayama and a podium on Sunday at Fuji.


If the 86 MC is Toyota only by the badge, the second iteration of the APR Prius GT is what the Nagoya giant is about today. A full blown prototype racer under the skin of a latest gen Prius that would have hit the gym way too much, the hybrid monster has the proven 3.4L RV8K mounted midship and coupled with an evolution of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system lifted from an actual Prius. Or some of it at least. For 2016, APR has entered two cars finished in official Gazoo Racing colors, the same as the TS050. Although details are sparse and unconfirmed by tight-lipped Toyota R&D engineers, it surfaced that the #30 has batteries while the #31 uses capacitors, just like the LMP1 cars did up until last year. Interestingly, the two cars differ also by their tyres – #30 using Yokohama rubber and #31 on Bridgestones.


Check the carbon casing in the passenger footwell, this is where the secret sauce for your future hybrid Toyota is brewing. As an aside, the mandatory color-coded switch mounted on the console sets colored LEDs in the windshield to indicate which driver is in the car.


Coming back to the Euro GT3 clan, I have to make mention of the team with the most devoted following of all the GT300 competitors: Goodsmile Racing & TeamUKYO. They’ve returned in 2016 with a new car in the Goodsmile Racing Hatsune Miku AMG-GT for one of the best driver pairings in the series, namely Nobuteru ‘NOB’ Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka.


Goodsmile Racing has perfected the art of itasha livery over the years and this version is spot on. The team’s race queens are likewise ‘Miku-fied’ and play an important role in the fan experience for the army of followers, many of which support the team financially.


The Hatsune Miku AMG-GT had a good start to the season, climbing on the second step of the podium in Okayama behind an other AMG-GT entry from Leon Cvstos. Both cars did not have a good afternoon at Fuji; the Leon car ended up in the tyre barriers while the Miku Benz suffered a puncture. But the AMG-GT does seem to have a lot of potential.


The other anime-sponsored car this year is also an AMG-GT. The Eva RT Test-01 Rn-s AMG GT reprises the well known Evangelion livery seen in the past on a string of different cars. I’ll leave you to determine if this season’s car is the best fit for the ‘creative’ color combination.


After the 997’s very long stint, the 991 GT3 R is finally here, and two of them are entered in the series. The coolest, but not necessarily the fastest, is the Gulf NAC car. A joint effort between Gulf Japan and the long running NAC team, well known for its itasha entries in the past, it sports the timeless orange and baby blue color combination.


They should be awarded bonus points for the team truck as well. This could have been a scene from Le Mans, circa 1970…


Thanks to the dedication of the JLOC team, Lamborghinis have been raced in the series for a long time. This year they are joined by Direction Racing with both teams entering no less than four brand new Huracan GT3s, with the blessing of Lamborghini Squadra Corse.


After the initial success of the Taisan F40 in the early days of the JGTC, Ferrari has kept a relatively low profile in Super GT, with local teams – predominantly Gainer – racing Japan-modified Maranello machines with mixed results. As the 458 GT3 started to become ubiquitous in the GT racing world, it did not have the same success in Japan, and strangely Ferrari did nothing to push the car in what is one of its key markets. So, it is encouraging to see that for once Japan is getting the new 488 GT3 at the same time as other countries. There are two of them in Japan now – one in Super Taikyu and the other in GT300. Although AF Corse has no involvement, the car is somehow reminiscent of the 488s racing in other series. It is doing quite well for its debut, with two top 10 finishes in two races.


Another dominating machine in Europe with little success in Japan is the Audi R8 LMS. The new car, of which there are two running in GT300 (with a third on the way), may change that though. The former GT500 champion Richard Lyons and Tomonobu Fuji in the very works-like Audi Team Hitotsuyama car are Ingolstadt’s best hope.


Everyone’s favorite Lotus is at it again. After a first season marred by technical issues and pure bad luck, the little Evora MC has shown that it has the speed; it now just needs to finish a race without incident. That was not the case at Fuji where it tangled with the Leon AMG-GT.

Maximum Attack

The star of the Fuji race in GT300 was the Nismo works B-MAX NDDP GT-R. Matching the pace of the pole-sitting ARTA M6 GT3, it jumped the orange BMW thanks to an ultra-efficient crew during the pitstops and a great drive from Kazuki Hoshino and newcomer Jann Mardenborough to take the coveted win.


The young Englishman has wasted no time making his mark in the championship. After putting out impressive lap times during winter testing, he produced a commanding performance to win the second race he entered in Super GT. For the GT Academy graduate who spent countless hours in the JGTC universe of his PlayStation, it must have been a very special feeling to celebrate the Fuji win alongside Japanese racing royalty – team boss Masahiro Hasemi and teammate Kazuki, son of Nissan legend Kazuyoshi Hoshino. ‘Living the dream’ has rarely been such an accurate expression.


The fast track to success of Mardenborough mirrors one of another Nissan rising star, Katsumasa Chiyo. Revealed by his stunning drive to victory in the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour and subsequent title in Blancpain Endurance Championship, Chiyo has transitioned to GT500 this season with no signs of slowing down. Breaking the GT500 course record with a blazingly fast 1’27.366 in qualifying, Chiyo was on his way to a second podium finish in a row with teammate Satoshi Motoyama when an unfortunate timing forced him to pit under safety car and collect a 90-second penalty. But we will see more of the S Road GT-R this season – that’s a given.


Chiyo-san’s lap would have put him just behind the LMP1-H cars on the grid of the WEC 6 Hours of Fuji race, in front of all the other prototypes including the privateer LMP1 cars. Such is the sheer speed of the GT500 machines. Regulations allow the three manufacturers to prepare a low downforce package for Fuji, mostly visible with the streamlined front bumper and the almost-flat rear wing plane.


Shaped by years of unadulterated race-by-race research and evolution, the hyper competitive engineering teams of the three manufacturers have adapted to the 2014 technical regulations.


This relentless search for ultimate performance exudes from every detail of the cars.


Once the huge carbon front piece is off, the ‘GT’ part of Super GT becomes moot. This is pure purpose-built race car: a four-cylinder 2.0L turbo RI4AG nested deep and low into the firewall, inboard suspension, huge encased carbon brakes, and plenty of heat shielding.


On the other hand, the NSX GT Concept is showing only suspension scaffolding, while the engine is uniquely mounted in a rear midship configuration. This year Honda decided to forgo the problematic and heavy hybrid system, although this did not help much as the NSXs are struggling to match the pace of the Nissan and Lexus entries at the moment.


Outside of the cars themselves, the battle is raging between the four tyre manufacturers taking part in the series: Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin and Yokohama. There’s no control rubber here, everything is bleeding edge and this is one of the major factors making the series so interesting. Tyres and wheels are everywhere in the paddock, from slicks to heavy wets, mounted on the cream of the crop from the big Japanese wheel makers.

History Repeats

After a string of incidents for the front runners, the story of the GT500 race boiled down to an increasingly familiar scenario: the red car versus the blue car; the Motul Autech GT-R of back-to-back series champions Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda battling the Calsonic Impul GT-R of Joao Paolo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda.


Joao Paolo ‘JP’ de Oliveira was the hero of the race; he put the Impul GT-R on pole position, drove away at the start and was firmly in the lead before leaving the car to Yasuda. But the safety car period, brought by a tyre blow on the Raybrig NSX, set back the gap to zero, and Quintarelli in the Motul Autech GT-R took the lead after the last pit stop. JP, taking back the wheel for the last stint, fought back and overtook the red GT-R again, only to have a rear tyre blow at speed in the 100R curve just three laps from the end, disintegrating the rear cowling and forcing a retirement. A infuriating conclusion to a great drive from the Brazilian.


The ‘Fuji Meister’ Yuji Tachikawa in the ZENT-sponsored RC F was the fastest of the Lexus entries; he did his best to fend off the Motul Autech GT-R too, but eventually ran out of gas on a miscalculation.


Lexus can take comfort with the second and third steps of the GT500 podium, though. Kohei Hirate and Heikki Kovalainen in the Denso Kobelco SARD RC F had their best result so far with a second place.


Third place went to the KeePer TOM’S RC F of James Rossiter and Ryo Hirakawa. The British driver jumped in a plane straight after the race to rejoin the ByKolles team in Belgium for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, with the first practice 24 hours after the end of the race at Fuji. If there is such a thing as global Speedhunting, this is it.


None of the Hondas came near the lead during the race, but the ARTA NSX of Kosuke Matsuura and Tomoki Nojiri managed to finish in 6th. There is work to do at Honda Racing before the next race in Sugo in July.


The Autopolis round that was supposed to take place later this month in Kyushu had to unfortunately be cancelled as the track was damaged by the big earthquake in Kumamoto. The racing community and the spectators, as in 2011, showed their solidarity to the people affected before the race start.


And so after a 500km thriller filled with incidents, battles and a final twist that no one had seen coming, the reigning champions took their second win on the trot – the 18th for Super GT victory record holder Tsugio Matsuda. History shows that the winners of the first two races eventually take the championship, so Quintarelli and Matsuda will have time to think that over until the next race.

Pierre-Laurent Ribault

Cutting Room Floor


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There this thing I've noticed in any Motorsport - When it reaches its pinnacle, then surpasses it: 

Efficiency goes up and beyond... but also, cool factor goes down.

Case in point: 4 cylinder gt500 cars.

or Formula 1



In a nutshell, these cars were cooler 10-20 years ago.
Is it Global "economics" to blame... or thank?? I don't know.


Matt Khoun There have been four cylinder GT500 cars for a long time. Toyota was using them in the Supras they feilded in the series back in the early-mid 90s


I wonder if in 30 years time, we might see these cars parked outside a 711 in Japan?


Yay! Go Heikki!!! My mother-in-law will be pleased :-)


Can't wait for Nismo Tv to start streaming the races again, they're always entertaining to watch with the boys from Radio Le Mans doing the commentary. Last season was a cracker with some awesome racing. Chiyo was amazing at Bathurst this year...can't wait to watch this series


MercRMW Matt Khoun People can never get over the four banger thing. The expression on a layman's face is priceless after they ask me what size engine is under the hood of my s2000. Complete and utter disgust.


Honda/HPD and issues with hybrid systems... I'm beginning to see a pattern here.... :(


tokuku They will most likely end up in a museum somewhere


Back in highschoolI I remember watching Dan Gurney's Toyota Eagle GTP car dominate IMSA. It only had a 700hp four-popper. Even, the Ferrari Monza used a 3.5 liter inline-four over the V12 for tight racetracks in the fifties.


Thanks for the behind the scene looks.I always wanted to know what was under the skin of those bad boys! Super GT is one of my fav motorsports.  Awesome pics as always.  Can you guys get coverage of Super Taikyu also?  I haven't found much about it - no videos just a few random snaps here and there.

Speedhunter for Life!


Minor correction, the race "weekend" was a Tuesday-Wednesday affair this year.


Naaaaaah, they retire where all legendary cars go to retire: The "NORTH" :
(Ok so the last two might be the same car if I remember correctly but my point stands: Old Racecars never die: they simple 'retire' to the glorious north... Like some sort of tarmac and gravel Valhalla.)


It is just me, or does that Lotus fascia seem a bit... racist?


Matt_Redondo That's what I was thinking. Looking at that shot was making me smile.


TarmacTerrorist Or you can fetch them on Yahoo Auctions from time to time. The Iwazaki GTR GT3 was for sale there last month for 21 millions yens...


Thank you for some proper hardcore Speedhunting! Great read and photos to go with it. I'll be downloading many of these for desktops when I get home :)


Honda has lost their way.


Matt_Redondo I like the little square teeth in its mouth.


"Chiyo-san’s lap would have put him just behind the LMP1-H cars on the
grid of the WEC 6 Hours of Fuji race, in front of all the other
prototypes including the privateer LMP1 cars." WOW!!!


Matt Wood Correction made :)


@TarmacTerrorist, the Honda in GT500 does not have a hybrid system this year. But I get what your saying....other than the Civic in WTCC, TCR, and BTCC, Honda is getting their asses handed to them lately.


@Matt Khoun, like MercRMW said, the 4 cylinders go back to the Castrol Tom's Supra from the early 1990s....Ya, that Supra in Gran Turismo that you love so much, it's got a 4 cylinder in it, not a 2JZ.
The current GT500 cars are brilliant. The engines sound terrific, and they are fast as hell.


Awesome post, great coverage!!! I watched the race with the Japanese commentary, but was a little unsure of a few things that happened, namely the S-Road pitting and the Zent retiring. Thanks for clearing things up.
It was another great race from Fuji, good action in both classes. Seems like a lot of teams had tire issues. 100R was eating cars! The blowouts for both the Raybrig and the Calsonic were two of the biggest I've both cases, it tore half the car apart!
Quinterelli and Matsuda look to be on another role. Quinterelli is a beast...4 championships in 5 years. One of the most dominant performances in recent motorsport history.
Chiyo San is an extremely exciting young talent. His drive in Okayama early this year was spectacular, and his last two outings at Bathurst have been amazing. Can't wait to see what else he can deliver.


That's what I'm saying - they left it out and are running behind the field. Again. Caused by a bloody battery and a couple of over complicated dynos. Again :(
Ha, it's hardly a civic anymore, I don't understand a hatchback that doesn't come in a 2-door (that's not a coupe, that was on sale, in the US) and a four door type R civic kind of ruins the Racing DNA that is supposedly at the core of the business.
The Civic is more the size and design of the Accord, the Accord is the size of the Legend, the legend I swear is longer then the current CRV... And the can't bloody make it to 200mph in F1 and they want us to get on a Jet made by them? How late are they trying to make us?! ;)


That's not that bad at all really when you consider what you would be getting. Tempting. Anyone need some liver?
I saw a McRae (not Colin, his brother) Ex Works Civic prepped for rally (obviously) for sale a couple of years ago, it went for six grand - fully ready to race, spares package.... I Nearly cried when I found out how much it finally went for. Absolutely spotless. Traceable ownership and everything.
I guess old race cars don't always have the straightest of frames though so it would be a hell of an undertaking.
*grumble*I bet it's got silly camber and a "stereo" now... *grumble*


That Prius....

Nice coverage, thanks for sharing! What a ton of great shots. :D


awesome post and great coverage, many thanks, hoping to see these my own eyes one day :) damnn


Hey guys ..... Im back !


The Motul Autech NISMO Team will be the the toughest team to beat if they continue getting podium finishes with their GT-R GT500 car. While Honda got into the Top 10 in Fuji, the NSX needs some work to do!

Meanwhile, let's mourn the loss of that Love Live-liveried McLaren MP4-12c GT3 car as it was retired by Pacific NAC. Unlike µ's however, the McLaren car won't be missed!


Benigmatica I'm kinda surprised no one entered the 650S GT3 in there. Would have been just as good a fit for ARTA after they dumped the CRZ GT300.


worker bee I was gobsmacked when I read that line. That's... that's like 1998 all over again.


Twitch_6 it was unlimited back then; a 4 cylinder against 6 cylinders, v12 diablos and aston martins... before the 3.4 litre v8 rule, then the 2 litre 4 cylinder rule...
Wake up, you're missing the point.


UWerqxTeam_MJ The problem was that McLaren didn't give their support to Japanese teams, including Pacific NAC.


Not enough...I would like a passage of covering the current Super Taikyu even this Super GT passage is decent.
I'm pointing this because the Super Taikyu is not the racing modification cars you see in games decade ago, as the top class cars are the very same FIA-GT3 in Super GT. Something tells me both are about the same and very fishy...

Call me biased but, I still hope to see more of the minor Japanese domestic races introduced to Westerners.


ethosVeritas_Z32 They used to do live commentary, as far as I know they won't be covering any races this year


speedhunters_dino Matt Wood Hey Dino could you help us find someone to translate the races ! My japanese is not good at all


KiwiMotoring Matt_Redondo I think that's what did it for me. Fun little character. 

I think it says something about the team, or whoever was responsible for the livery, to do something like that. Nice sense of fun/humor.


According to the NISMO TV facebook and Twitter accounts, they are working on getting the live stream back. last I heard, they were anticipating having it back for round 4 of the championship. I can't be certain whether or not it will have the RLM commentary or not. My guess is yes, and Sam Collins still usually watches the races live and live tweets about my guess is that as soon as the stream is back up, he'll be back to commentating it. Hopefully :)
No idea why it stopped, it seemed like a real success. Only think I can think of is the stream got too popular and couldn't handle the traffic. Who knows though.
It really is one of the best racing series in the entire world, and there's definitely a global audience who ants to watch it.


Meh...2 doors, 4 doors, makes no difference to me. All that matters is the Touring Car civics look great, especially the Castrol liveries in WTCC; and they are taking the fight to the evil Citroens, and that makes me happy :D


No I think you're missing the point. Who cares what configuration of engine is in the car, as long as it's fast and races well. I too can sit around wishing for "the good'ole days", because don't get me wrong, having different engines on the grid is cool and all....but it is completely unsustainable. There simply isn't the global demand for motorsports that an manufacturer, never mind a small team, can invest the type of money required to build a high performace, one of engine for a race series just to add some variety to the grid.
Is it better that the series uses a single engine configuration and is doing extremely well, or would it be better to have a couple different types of engines, and say half the number of cars on the grid?
And there's still lots of variety in GT300.
Take the rose tinted glasses off and enjoy today's racing, as it is as good and competative as its ever been. If you are that upset by the new regs, provide constructive criticism, or jusr STFU. You sound like every other old head on the Internet crying about how things were better back when.


I was trying to find the GTA-branded engine , all I can find is Grand Theft Auto ... alright then , powered by game . XD


Benigmatica UWerqxTeam_MJ Actually, McLaren sent an engineer in 2014 in support to the Super GT races when Car Tokai was running the MP4 12C after their disastrous 2013 season, and it helped.


RDS GTA stands for GT Association, the organizing body of Super GT.


plribault UWerqxTeam_MJ Yeah, but it seems that there's no McLaren support in 2015 I believe.



Thanks for the information , I still couldn't find any information about the engine ... 4.5-litre natural aspirated V8 , it's either Honda or Toyota base , that's my guess here .


RDS plribault vk45de???


JakeParker RDS ;)


Twitch_6  GTA runs a tight ship, and it works well as it is. The business and marketing model of the series is geared towards the local audience and market so they are not in a dire need to expand internationally. The dynamics between the main players within the series is also very Japan-centered. A bit like Nascar. Or DTM for that matter. This is also why the road to Class 1 is so slow, the only things that could be agreed so far are the cost reduction measures that can be used in each series while everything that would cause a change on either side (tyres, engine, etc) is stalling.

As for live broadcasting, Super GT is on the premium J Sports channel in Japan, and J Sports pays a lot of money for that, so whoever wants to bring it to a global audience needs to lay out a healthy amount as well.
I think that it is ultimately up to one or more of the 3 manufacturers to decide if they want to pay, or maybe the tyre makers, as they are the ones who could benefit to get more exposure internationally. Nismo did it last year with a reasonable success, and Lexus is warming up to the idea of Super GT since they start to show the cars on their social networks entities from time to time, but in the end it is a problem of ROI.


Twitch_6 ...

now ur just butthurt.


Speedhunters thanks for the great article! #SuperGT is really worthy to watch :)


To be fair to McLaren, they probably need all the Japanese speaking members of their staff at MTC currently...


Sorry man, I live at ground zero (McL F1 MTC is ten minutes away...) for a large part of their current situation and my home town pride has been taking a bruising!


Speedhunters Excellent read! I recently did a full-length commentary of the race if you're interested


2 much 2 learn


More of this please!!!


good car for the race and I'm sure very fast


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