Super GT (stylized as SUPER GT) is a grand touring car racing series that began in 1993. Originally titled as the Zen Nihon GT Senshuken (全日本GT選手権), generally referred to as either the JGTC or the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship, the series was renamed to Super GT in 2005. It is the top level of sports car racing in Japan.
25 (GT300) (total: 40)
GT500: Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S|
GT300: Goodsmile Racing & Team UKYO
|Official website||Super GT.net|
The series is sanctioned by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) and run by the GT Association (GTA). Autobacs has served as the title sponsor of the series since 1998.
The JGTC years (1993–2004)Edit
The JGTC (Japanese Grand Touring Championship) was established in 1993 by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) via its subsidiary company the GTA (GT Association), replacing the defunct All Japan Sports Prototype Championship for Group C cars and the Japanese Touring Car Championship for Group A touring cars, which instead would adopt the supertouring formula. Seeking to prevent the spiraling budgets and one-team/make domination of both series, JGTC imposed strict limits on power, and heavy weight penalties on race winners in an openly stated objective to keep on-track action close with an emphasis on keeping fans happy.
In its first season, the JGTC grid mostly consisted of Japan Super Sport Sedan cars, with the only genuine JGTC cars being two Nismo-entered Nissan Skyline GT-Rs, which were in fact modified Group A cars. An exception was the first race of the season, which was also an exhibition race of the IMSA GT Championship, and therefore saw a contingent of GTS and GTU cars from the American series join the field. The 1000 km Suzuka also saw a greater variety of competitors, with Group C prototypes, Group N touring cars, and GT cars from Europe and IMSA all joining the field.
For the following season, the series would undergo a rules overhaul, creating a class for the FIA's GT1 category, and another for the GT2 category. The JSS series would altogether dissolve into the latter category. What made the series more significant was that compared to other racing series, JGTC teams at the time had the freedom to enter whichever cars they preferred, even if it was the JSS cars from the inaugural season or spaceframe racers from the IMSA GTS class. However, the Group C prototypes, whilst easily showing dominant form, were banned from the series from the 1995 season onwards.
By the end of the 1995 season, as the cost of obtaining and running a GT1 car had dramatically increased, the JGTC would go through another rules overhaul in order to lower costs and avoid the fate of the JSPC series it had replaced. The newly formed GT500 and GT300 regulations were adopoted, which capped cars with air restrictors depending on their weight and power. While the regulations would continuously evolve, the GT500 and GT300 classes continue to form the top level of Japanese sports car racing today.
Super GT (2005–present)Edit
The JGTC had planned to hold a race during the 2005 season at the Shanghai International Circuit in China, in addition to the existing overseas round at Sepang in Malaysia. However, holding the series in more than two countries would have meant the JGTC would lose its status as a "national championship" under the International Sporting Code of the FIA, and therefore could not keep "Japanese Championship" in its name. The series would instead be classified as an "international championship" by the FIA, and would therefore require direct authorization from it, rather than the JAF.
Therefore, on December 10, 2004, it was announced that JGTC would be renamed "Super GT", with the goals of "challenge to the world", "challenge from the world", and "challenge to entertainment". However, despite the name change, Super GT has continued to only hold one overseas race per year; in theory, it could regain its status as a national championship and return to JAF jurisdiction.
In 2014, Super GT and the German touring car series DTM announced the creation of "Class One", which would unify GT500's and DTM's technical regulations, allowing manufacturers to race in both series with a single specification of car. After some delays, full unification of technical regulations is set for 2019.
The series made its first international expansion in 2000, holding an exhibition race at Sepang in Malaysia. After a further exhibition race in 2001, it gained points-paying championship status in 2002, staying on the calendar until 2014, when it was replaced by the Buriram circuit in Thailand.
A day-to-night exhibition race in the Los Angeles area was held in 2004 at the infield road course of the Auto Club Speedway. Additionally, races were planned for Zhuhai in 2004, Shanghai in 2005, and Yeongam in 2013, but they were never held.
Generally, races are single events of at least 300 kilometers, though in 2011, the minimum distance was reduced to 250 km due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Furthermore, the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes forced the GTA to cancel its Autopolis round, substituting the race with Super GT's sole instance of a double-header event, comprising two 250 km races held at Motegi.
The 1000 km Suzuka rejoined the series in 2006, becoming the longest and most prestigious race on the calendar. Due to its length, many teams choose to bring an additional driver to contest the race. However, its 2017 edition will be its last, as the race will become a 10-hour round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2018, although GT3 and JAF-GT cars will continue to be eligible to participate. Suzuka will continue to be featured on the Super GT calendar, but with a shorter 300 km race.
The cars are divided into two groups; GT300 and GT500. The names of the categories derive from their traditional maximum horsepower limit - in the early years of the series, GT500 cars would have no more than 500 horsepower, GT300 cars would max out at around 300 hp. However, the current generation of GT500 powerplants produce in excess of 600 horsepower. Meanwhile, in present-day GT300, the horsepower range varies from around 400 to just over 550 horsepower; however, GT300 cars have far less downforce than their GT500 counterparts.
In both groups, the car number is assigned to the team, in which each team is allowed to choose whichever number they want as long as the number isn't already used by any other team. The number assigned to each team is permanent, and may only change hands when the team exits the series. In addition, only defending team champions are allowed to use number 0 (for GT300 champions) and 1 (for GT500 champions), although it isn't mandatory for defending champions to use those numbers.
For easy identification, GT500 cars run white headlight covers, windshield decals, and number panels, while GT300 cars run yellow versions of those items.
The top class in Super GT, GT500, is dominated by the three largest automakers in Japan - Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. Since 2006, Toyota has been represented in GT500 by its luxury vehicle brand, Lexus, after the retirement of the Toyota Supra from the series. The GT500 class is composed entirely of manufacturer-supported teams, the giants of the Japanese racing industry.
Since 2014, GT500 cars have been powered by twin-turbocharged, inline four-cylinder engines with two liters of displacement and producing over 600 horsepower. The cars are tube-frame silhouette racing cars similar to those seen in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). The advancements in aerodynamics and horsepower, combined with an ongoing tyre war driving even higher speeds, have made the GT500 class the fastest form of production-based sports car racing today. The pace of a GT500 car is roughly equivalent to that of the fastest non-hybrid Le Mans Prototypes.
For many years, the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the Toyota Supra, and the Honda NSX represented their respective brands in GT500. Today, the three cars competing in GT500 are the Nissan GT-R (R35), the Lexus LC 500, and the second-generation Honda NSX. Other models, such as the Nissan Fairlady Z and the Lexus SC 430 have been used, as well as the Honda HSV-010 GT, a prototype car developed specifically for Super GT with its planned road-going variant having been cancelled.
In the earlier years of the GT500 category, a number of foreign manufacturers entered cars in the series, with varying success. The McLaren F1 GTR is, to date, the only foreign car to win the GT500 championship, when it did so in dominant fashion in 1996. The Porsche 911 GT2 and Ferrari F40 also won races in the early years of GT500. The last foreign-built car to enter the series was the Aston Martin DBR9, which fared poorly in its brief run in 2009 - illustrating the overwhelming advantage in raw pace that the GT500 class cars had over the FIA GT1 category cars that dominated the landscape in Europe.
Four-door sedans have never run in the GT500 class, despite the regulations being changed in 2012 to permit their entry.
New GT500 cars were introduced in 2014 in preparation for the future Class One, including the first car in the class to utilize a KERS-assisted hybrid powertrain, the Honda NSX Concept-GT. Common aerodynamic regulations with the DTM were adopted, as was Class One's turbocharged four-cylinder engine specification. Furthermore, the 2014 rules overhaul also increased the cars' downforce by 30%, while lowering costs. Aerodynamic development above a "design line" wrapping around the fenders, bumpers, and doorsills was restricted. Over sixty common parts were introduced, including the brakes, diffuser, and rear wing.
In response to increasing cornering speeds, another aerodynamic overhaul was introduced in 2017, lowering downforce by 25%. Furthermore, KERS units were banned, although the only manufacturer to utilize such systems, Honda, had already discontinued their usage in 2016.
Unlike GT500, both works-backed and independent teams compete in GT300, so the field tends to be much more varied in terms of types of cars entered. As in GT500, the major Japanese automakers participate in this class, entering cars such as the Toyota Prius and Subaru BRZ, which comply with JAF-GT regulations. However, the GT300 class is predominantly composed of GT3-class cars from European manufacturers such as Audi and Mercedes, although Lexus and Nissan are also represented in the class by GT3 cars. This reflects a growing interest in the series from European manufacturers, with Audi and BMW fielding works-supported entries. Lexus, Nissan, and Subaru also campaign works-supported cars in the class.
The GT300 class used to host more exotic cars from the likes of ASL, Mosler, Mooncraft, and Vemac (a Lotus tuner). However, starting in 2006, teams increasingly chose instead to campaign European GT cars, a trend that accelerated in 2010 with the introduction of GT3 cars to the series. In response to the decline of locally produced entries from specialist manufacturers, the GTA worked with Dome to create the "Mother Chassis", a low-cost GT300 platform, with the first MC car entering the series in 2014. Mother Chassis cars utilize a standard Dome-produced tub and GTA-branded Nissan VK45DE engine, while maintaining the appearance of production cars such as the Toyota 86, Lotus Evora, and Toyota Mark X. The MC concept proved to be popular with independent teams, as well as competitive, with the Toyota 86 MC winning the GT300 championship in 2016.
One of the more unique GT300 competitors was the Mooncraft Shiden MC/RT-16, a Riley Daytona Prototype-based revival of the original 1977 Mooncraft Shiden 77 (紫電77). It competed from 2006 to 2012, narrowly losing the title in 2006, and winning the championship in 2007. Front-wheel drive cars such as the Mitsubishi FTO and Toyota Corolla Levin AE101, a rarity in top-level circuit racing, are further examples of unique GT300 machines. They competed in their original configurations until the early 2000s, when FWD cars were being permitted to be converted to rear-wheel drive configuration. The FWD cars were mostly unsuccessful, failing to win any championships. Rear-wheel drive cars dominated the series until 2008, when an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza developed by Cusco won in Sepang.
Hybrid cars first raced in the GT300 class in 2012, when apr introduced their Toyota Prius apr GT, and Team Mugen fielded a Honda CR-Z GT. Both cars were heavily modified from their production counterparts. The Prius was powered by a 3.4 liter V8 LMP1 engine, which worked in concert with production Hybrid Synergy Drive components; the CR-Z utilized a 2.8 liter V6 LMP2 engine and a 50kW Zytek electric motor. Both the CR-Z and Prius were mid-engined, differing from their front-engined road-going counterparts; this resulted in the CR-Z's withdrawal after the 2015 season, as new regulations for 2016 stipulated that GT300 cars' engines were to be located in the same position as in their production counterparts. However, apr took advantage of a loophole in the regulations to continue to race their mid-engine Prius, currently fielding two cars in the series.
The development of GT300 cars is much more regulated than that of their GT500 counterparts; the GTA works with the Stephane Ratel Organisation to balance the performance of all GT300 cars via technical adjustments in order to create close racing. While the GT3 cars in the class are closely related to production cars, the JAF-GT machines differ from production vehicles to a greater degree, and in the case of the Mother Chassis cars, share little more than a badge and exterior styling with their road-going counterparts. While engine outputs are at a lower level than the GT500 cars, the GT300 cars still post competitive times and races are relatively tight when combined with GT500 traffic. As it is becoming increasingly more difficult for GT500 cars to overtake GT300s, the GTA may review the speed difference between the two classes in the future, especially if the pace of the GT300 cars continues to increase.
|ASL||ASL Garaiya||JAF-GT||2005, 2007–2012|
|Aston Martin||Aston Martin V8 Vantage||FIA GT2||2010–2012||Served until Round 1, 2012|
|Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3||FIA GT3||2012–2014|
|Audi||Audi R8 LMS||FIA GT3||2012–2016 (first generation)
2016–present (second generation)
|BMW||BMW Z4 M Coupé||JAF-GT||2008–2009|
|BMW Z4 GT3||FIA GT3||2011–2015|
|BMW M6 GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Bentley||Bentley Continental GT3||FIA GT3||2017–present|
|Chevrolet||Chevrolet Corvette C6||JAF-GT||2005, 2008|
|Chevrolet Corvette Z06-R||FIA GT3||2011–2013|
|Ferrari||Ferrari 360 Modena||JAF-GT||2005–2009|
|Ferrari 458 Italia||FIA GT2
2012–2013 Rd.3, 2015 (GT3)
|Ferrari 488 GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Ford||Ford GT||JAF-GT||2006||Powered by a Ford Zetec engine|
|Honda CR-Z||JAF-GT||2012–2015||Petrol-electric hybrid|
2012–2015 (FIA GT3)
|Lamborghini Húracan GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Lexus||Lexus IS 350||JAF-GT||2008–2012|
|Lexus RC-F GT3||FIA GT3||2015–present|
|Lotus||Lotus Exige||JAF-GT||2005||As spot participant at the Malaysian Round|
|Lotus Evora||JAF-GT||2015–present||Mother Chassis platform|
|McLaren||McLaren MP4-12C||FIA GT3||2013–2015|
|Mercedes-Benz||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG||FIA GT3||2012–present|
|Mercedes-AMG GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Mooncraft||Mooncraft Shiden||JAF-GT||2006–2012||Based on a Daytona Prototype|
|Mosler||Mosler MT900||JAF-GT||2005–2007, 2010–2011||As a spot participant in 2009 and 2012|
|Nissan||Nissan Fairlady Z||JAF-GT||2005–2010|
|Nissan GT-R GT3||FIA GT3||2012–present|
|Porsche||Porsche 911 GT3||FIA GT2
|Subaru||Subaru Impreza WRX STi||JAF-GT||2005–2008||4WD-equipped 4-door sedan|
|Subaru Legacy||JAF-GT||2009–2011||4WD-equipped 4-door sedan|
|Toyota Corolla Axio||JAF-GT||2009–2011||4-door sedan|
|Toyota Prius||JAF-GT||2012–present||Petrol-electric hybrid sedan|
|Toyota 86||JAF-GT||2014–present||Mother Chassis platform. Spot entry in 2014.|
|Toyota Mark X||JAF-GT||2017–present||Mother Chassis platform. 4-door sedan.|
Super GT is unique in its open and blunt statement that it is committed to providing exciting racing first, at the expense of runaway investment by works teams. GT500 cars are fitted with many common parts, lowering costs and equalizing the performance of those parts across all competitors. In the GT300 class, air restrictor sizes, minimum weights, ride heights, and maximum turbo boost pressures are modified on a race-to-race basis to balance performance across all cars. All adjustments to the regulations and the balance of performance are publicly accessible.
The regulations stipulate that no single driver drive over two-thirds of the race distance, which affects the timing of pit stops and driver changes, therefore preventing strategy from dominating the competition. Formerly, the regulations went further and required pit stops and driver changes be done within mandatory windows; in 2004, during the Fontana exhibition race, a few teams were penalised after the race ended when race officials discovered their pit stops came one lap before the mandatory window had opened.
Perhaps the best-known handicap system in use in the Super GT is its "success ballast" system, known in the series as the "weight handicap". Weight penalties are assigned depending on a car's performance during the race, similar to systems used in the DTM and the BTCC. The system metes out two kilograms of ballast per point scored; it formerly added ballast based on qualifying positions and individual lap times. Stickers on the cars display every car's weight handicap level. In the 2007 season, the Takata NSX team achieved a record-breaking 5 pole positions in the first 7 races, but due to the weight handicap system, they only won one race among those seven. Such regulations keep the championship in play up to the final race of the season: only two GT500 teams (ARTA in 2007 and MOLA in 2012) have managed to clinch a driver's championship prior to the final race.
Following repeated cases of teams and drivers not winning a single race but still winning the championship, the handicap system was changed in 2009 to combat sandbagging, discouraging a team from intentionally performing poorly in order to secure a more favorable weight handicap. The ballast is now halved in the penultimate race and lifted altogether in final race for teams that participated in every round of the season. Teams missing only one round receive halved-ballast in the final race instead.
In 2017, the weight handicap system for GT500 cars was amended to add fuel flow restrictions. Actual weight ballast will be capped at 50 kilograms for reasons of practicality and safety. When a car's assigned ballast exceeds 50 kilograms, it will be assigned a lesser amount of weight ballast, but a fuel flow restriction will be imposed, the severity of which increases according to the size of the assigned weight handicap. While the amount of actual weight ballast carried may vary, the weight handicap stickers on the cars will continue to display the assigned weight handicap.
Like the series, Super GT drivers are very popular in Japan with a growing international fanbase. One driver who gained international appeal is Keiichi Tsuchiya, who raced for the Taisan and ARTA teams before moving to a managerial role upon his retirement in 2004. Other drivers who were famously associated with the series and still are actively involved in Super GT through team ownership are Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Aguri Suzuki, and Kunimitsu Takahashi, with the latter being a former President of the GT Association, which runs the series. The series also attracts drivers who see the series as a stepping-stone to Formula One such as Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa, as well as former F1 drivers, most famously Érik Comas, who was the series' most successful driver until he stepped down from his position as a number one driver, and 2016 champion Heikki Kovalainen. In 2018, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button will compete as part of Team Kunimitsu for the season after competing in the 2017 Suzuka 1000km for the Mugen team as a one off appearance.
In the GT300 class, notable drivers include Nobuteru Taniguchi of Goodsmile Racing, who is also well known as a D1GP competitor, and Manabu Orido, a former D1GP judge currently driving for JLOC. Other well-known drivers in the category were the TV presenter and singer Hiromi Kozono and Masahiko Kondo, who was also a pop star, actor, and racer-turned-GT500 team owner. Another popular GT300 driver was Tetsuya Yamano, who runs his own driving school and took the GT300 class victory at Sepang for three consecutive years.
List of notable former JGTC/Super GT driversEdit
1998 JGTC Fuji incidentEdit
Japanese driver Tetsuya Ota is notable for surviving a fiery multi-car pileup he was involved in during a JGTC race at Fuji Speedway on May 3, 1998. The accident was initially caused by an oversaturated track. Ota then aquaplaned and left the track which put him directly into an already crashed Porsche. At the time of the accident, the Ferrari Ota was driving had a full cell of fuel which was ignited by the impact. Ota was severely injured due to third-degree burns on a good percentage of his body which may have been prevented if JGTC, at the time, had sufficient emergency response. Ota filed a lawsuit against the racing club plus organizers for negligence and won the sum of ¥90 million (US$800,000).
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