25 (GT300) (total: 40)
|Teams' champion||GT500: Nismo
|Makes' champion||GT500: Nissan
|Official website||Super GT.net|
The Super GT series 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.
The event is sponsored by the GT-Association. Though the JGTC was authorized by the Japan Automobile Federation and recognized by the FIA, the Super GT is authorized directly by FIA.
The JGTC years
The JGTC (Japanese Grand Touring Championship) — established in 1993 by the JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation) via its subsidiary company the GT-A (GT Association) — replaced the defunct All Japan Sports Prototype Championship for Group C cars (that was terminated by the end of 1994) and in the same year Japanese Touring Car Championship for Group A touring cars, which would adopt the supertouring formula which was used worldwide. 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 the race goers happy.
In its first ever race, which was also an IMSA GT exhibition race, apart from the GTS and GTU cars from the United States series, as with the rest of the season, the grid consisted of mostly Japan Sport Sedan cars with the only genuine JGTC cars being two Nissan Skyline GT-Rs entered by NISMO, which were in fact modified Group A cars. The prototypes and European GT cars would only appear one race to be joined by the IMSA and Group N cars at the Suzuka 1000 km.
For the following season, the series would undergo a rules overhaul, class 1 for cars similar to that of the FIA's GT1 category and class 2 for cars that were the equivalent to the GT2 category. The JSS series would altogether dissolve into the latter category. What made the series more significant was compared to the series from other countries, JGTC teams had at the time the freedom to enter whichever cars they preferred, even if it was the JSS cars from the inaugural season and IMSA GTS spaceframe racers. The Group C prototypes, whilst easily showing dominant form, were banished at the end of the 1994 season.
By the end of the season, as the cost of attaining a FIA's GT1 cars increased dramatically, in order to keep costs down and determined not to go the same way as the JSPC series it replaced, the GT-A would go through another rules overhaul. This time was a change adoption of the newly formed GT500 and GT300 regulation which capped cars depending on weight and brake horsepower with an air restrictor. In 2002, the GT-A made another rule change, this time because the series had been intended to be a GT championship; this meant all competing cars must remain as two doors, while a special waiver was given to allow Cusco Racing to race their Subaru Impreza sedan.
The JGTC would first venture abroad with its first oversea race at Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia and after another successive year, the Malaysian race would become a regular championship fixture. After GT-A's abortive attempt at hosting a street race in Shanghai, the series would also venture into the United States with an exhibition race to be run with the D1 Grand Prix exhibition event in the Los Angeles area-California Speedway in Fontana, held during the week before Christmas in December 2004, which was not shown to be a success, since then no exhibition event was held until in 2010 season, which will be held in Fuji Speedway.
After years of successive rules changes, at the same time, the JGTC planned holding one more race outside of Japan, in China (Shanghai), in addition to Malaysia (Sepang). However, holding the series in more than three countries violates from the definition of the "national championship" of FIA. Therefore, the series needed to be authorized directly by FIA and was not able to be named Japanese Championship because the series had to be parted from Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), the Authority Sport Nationale (ASN) of Japan.
On December 10, 2004, while the series had been mainly focused on Japanese domestic teams, sponsors and fans, with an ever-rising international fan following and TV coverage shown all over the world it was announced that JGTC would now be called Super GT with the goals of "challenge to the world", "challenge from the world", and "challenge to entertainment".
Races are held as part of a yearly series. Races take place on well known Japanese race tracks like Twin Ring Motegi, Fuji Speedway, and Suzuka Circuit. The series was expanded to its first international venue in Malaysia (2000), and an exhibition race in the Los Angeles area (2004) at the Auto Club Speedway Automobile Competition Course (a day-to-night race) and infield courses. The Malaysian leg of the series, held at Sepang International Circuit was made an official race from 2002 and counted in the points. For the 2011 & 2012 Malaysian leg, the official organizer is JP Performance Motorsports Sdn. Bhd. (JPM). The baton was passed on to JPM to carry the Super GT tradition in Malaysia with hopes of producing an even more electrifying event.
Races are held as a single long endurance race of 300 km or greater such as 1000km Suzuka event. Through in season 2011, most of the race changes into sprints of 250 km due to the aftermath of 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
The cars are divided into two groups; GT500 and GT300 (cars with no more than 500 and 300 horsepower (374 and 224 kW), respectively). These power outputs are capped via the use of intake restrictors although some heavier cars are given allowances to run larger restrictors to maintain parity.
As is the traditional case for sportscar racing, both classes participate in one race with both classes running at the same time, and points are awarded separately for each group.
The top class in Super GT, GT500, is dominated by the Big 3 Japanese automakers; Honda (NSX-GT), Nissan (GT-R), and Toyota (Lexus RC-F) with some privateer teams previously running European cars, which included the Aston Martin DBR9, Ferrari 550-GTS, Lamborghini Murciélago, and notably, in the earlier years, using Lamborghini Diablos or McLaren F1 GTRs. Lexus, when they were running the SC430, considered replacing the SC with their LFA supercar to match their competitors, however they decided to continue racing the SC430.
Regulations in GT500 are considerably looser than most GT classifications, and teams are free to change engines with other models made by the manufacturer, change the alignment of the engine, or add forced-induction systems to models which do not normally have it, however from 2010 onwards all GT500 cars run V8 engines displacing 3.4 liters. The chassis may also be heavily modified, with lightweight tube-frame "clips" being allowed in front of and behind the main cockpit, although the car must overall look similar to its road-going variant. These regulations result in cars which are possibly the fastest GT racing cars in the world. The rationale for this was to allow manufacturers to field competitive cars without having to spend large amounts of money for homologation versions of the race car's road car counterparts (although some companies, notably Honda and Nissan, have still developed homologation specials).
In comparison to other grand tourer series, GT500 cars are generally quicker compared to similar FIA GT1 cars, in part due to the more liberal aerodynamic regulations present in Super GT. A FIA GT1 Maserati MC12 was poised to enter the series, and was seen participating in a pre-season test, but the MC12 was unable to match the cornering speeds of the existing Super GT competitors and did not appear at the first race. The only car to successfully run in both specifications was the McLaren F1 GTR which won races in the past in both categories.
In 2010 the GT association announced they will start to investigate the possibility to unite their GT500 regulations with the DTM regulations. In October 2012 a cooperation deal was signed in Tokyo. The agreement regarding the use of the "New DTM" regulations by Japan's Super GT begins in 2014 and runs – for the time being – for four years. As part of these regulations, the 4.5 liter, naturally aspirated V8 engines have been replaced by smaller, lighter 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbo engines, and new aerodynamics have been fitted.
In 2012, Super GT500 cars based on 4-door sedans were allowed, but were never used. The sedans remained in the GT300 class.
Electronic aids such as ABS, Traction Control and Stability Control are not allowed even if fitted to the road going variant, and the use of ceramic brakes is not permitted. There are also restrictions regarding the placement and size of aerodynamic aids such as wings and spoilers. From 2010 onwards canards fitted to the front sides in the front bumper are prohibited. The choice of tires is also varied with Bridgestone, Yokohama, Dunlop, Kumho, Michelin and Hankook (new for 2006) available to teams.
Few works teams participate in GT300, so the field tends to be much more varied in terms of types of cars entered. The big Japanese car makers also participate in this class, as well as more exotic cars from the likes of ASL, Mosler and Vemac (Lotus tuner). Since 2006, European-style GT cars have chosen to concentrate in this series. Starting from the 2010 season, cars built to FIA GT3 specifications started to race alongside JAF-GT and GT2 cars.
Along with the standard GT cars, the Shiden (MC/RT-16), a Mooncraft/Riley Daytona Prototype car reviving the original 1977 Mooncraft Shiden 77 (紫電77) also exists in GT300 class since 2006, getting good results (losing the title to RX-7 with tied points but fewer wins in 2006, eventually taking the title in 2007). Until the early 2000s when FWD cars were being permitted to be converted to RWD configuration, many of these such as Mitsubishi FTO and Toyota Corolla Levin AE101 competed in its original configuration, and did not win any championships. Cars with rear wheel drive tend to dominate the series until 2008, when an All Wheel Drive Subaru Impreza developed by Cusco won in Sepang.
GT300 cars are much more regulated than their GT500 counterparts, and much more closely resemble road-going versions. Chassis clips and realignments are not allowed (except the latter in the case of front-wheel drive cars), which results in a much more affordable racing experience for privateers. Canards are not allowed in GT300, even if they came on the road-going car. While engine outputs and modifications 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.
|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–present|
|Audi||Audi R8 LMS||FIA GT3||2012–present|
|BMW||BMW Z4 M Coupé||JAF-GT||2008–2009|
|BMW Z4 GT3||FIA GT3||2011–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 (GT3)
|Ford||Ford GT||JAF-GT||2006||Powered by a Ford Zetec engine|
|Honda CR-Z||JAF-GT||2012–present||Petrol-electric hybrid|
2012–present (FIA GT3)
|Lexus||Lexus IS 350||JAF-GT||2008–2012|
|Lotus||Lotus Exige||JAF-GT||2005||As spot participant at the Malaysian Round|
|McLaren||McLaren MP4-12C||FIA GT3||2013–present|
|Mercedes-Benz||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG||FIA GT3||2012–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||As a spot entry in 2014.|
Super GT is fairly 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. Cars are therefore very heavily tampered with by the governing body. At the start of the season, each car is fitted with an air intake restrictor to limit power to the stated class maxima, thus restricting excessive development to make a more powerful engine. Pitstops and driver changes during the race are done within mandatory windows, to prevent tactics from dominating a race. (In 2004, during the Fontana exhibition race, a few teams were penalised after the race ended when race officials, a mix of officials from both the host country and Japanese ASN's, ACCUS/FIA (which the sanctioning organisation, SCCA, is a member) and the JAF, discovered their pit stop came one lap before the mandatory window had opened.) All regulations and adjustments to the regulations are publicly announced, in contrast to many other better-known racing promotions.
Perhaps the best-known handicap system in use in the Super GT is the 'success ballast' system, called "weight handicap" where weight penalties are assigned depending on a car's performance during the race weekend. While this system is also used in other series like the FIA GT and the BTCC, who pioneered the system, the Super GT's version of the system is notable in that weight penalties are meted out more aggressively. While other series mete out penalties based on final position at the end of the race, Super GT also adds ballast based on qualifying position and individual lap times, and even in specific modifications (with the penalty on fastest lap in final lifted in 2007). In the 2007 season (GT500), the Takata NSX team achieved a record-breaking 5 pole positions in the first 7 races, but as such a system exists, they only won one race among them. Such regulation also keeps teams from the championship before the final race: only two GT500 teams (ARTA in 2007 and MOLA in 2012) have managed to clinch a driver's Championship prior the final race in the series' history.
In 2009, the handicap system was changed in the final two races to combat sandbagging, discouraging a team from intentionally finishing poorly in qualifying or the race, as well as intentionally being slower in the race during the run to the end of the season. During the final two races, the ballast will initially be halved in the penultimate race, and then lifted altogether in final race for all teams that participated in every round. Teams missing only one round receive halved-ballast in the final race instead.
Like the series, Super GT drivers are very popular in Japan with a huge international fan base. One of these drivers who has gained international appeal is Keiichi Tsuchiya who raced for the Taisan and ARTA teams before transferring to a managerial role upon his retirement in 2004. Other drivers who were famously associated with the series and still have active involvement through team ownership are Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Aguri Suzuki, Kunimitsu Takahashi with the latter being President of the GT Association, who runs the series. The series also attracts drivers who see the series as a stepping stone to the Formula One championship (almost always parallel with their involvement with Formula Nippon) including Ralf Schumacher or Pedro de la Rosa, and drivers who are no longer in F1 but want to continue their career, most famously Érik Comas, who was the series' most successful driver until he stepped down from his position as a number one driver.
With very few professional GT300 drivers, many of them have a fan base for their car, but very few of them have a fan base as a driver, particularly Nobuteru Taniguchi (formerly driving the Wedsport/Bandoh Racing Project Celica and Direxiv but now with RE Amemiya) who is also well known as a D1GP competitor and Manabu Orido (formerly driving the Denso SARD Supra and the Eclipse Advan Supra for the GT500 class, and the WedSport/Bandoh Racing Project IS350 which won the 2009 GT300 championship.) who is a D1GP judge turned competitor and currently driving the RIRE Lamborghini Gallardo. The other well-known driver in the category who is well known within Japan, is the TV presenter and singer Hiromi Kozono, who currently drives a Jim Gainer Ferrari 360 and Masahiko Kondo, also a pop star, actor and racer turned team owner who competes in the GT500 category. The only current foreign driver in the GT300 class is ex-Formula 3000 driver Marco Apicella. Another popular GT300 driver is Tetsuya Yamano, who runs his own driving school in Japan and has been a winner in his class for 3 successive years at the Malaysian round. As of 2007, he is driving for Cusco. Previous GT300 drivers include professional British driver Adam Wilcox who raced in the series from 2001 to 2003.
1998 JGTC Fuji incident
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. Tetsuya then hydroplaned and left the track which put him directly into an already crashed Porsche. At the time of the accident, the Ferrari Tetsuya 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).
- "History of JGTC". IMCA Slot Racing.
- "JGTC 1993 Season". WSPR Racing.
- Initial agreement reached for 2013 Korean rouond A step forward towards inaugurating event in Korea. Supergt.net. 16 December 2012.
- "Newin will bring Japanese series to Buriram Circuit". Bangkok Post. 12 August 2013.
- "レクサスの新GT500車のベース車両名称は『RC-F』に". as-web.jp. January 10, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- "～1977年製作の幻のレーシングカーが、市販車として復活！～Mooncraft オリジナル、究極のスーパースポーツカー"紫電"を発売". Mooncraft.jp. Retrieved 2011-09-04.
- This season's GT300 centerpiece: SGT Evora is unveiled (Japanese)
- About Weight Handicap System (English)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Super GT.|
- Super GT website (English) (Japanese)