- Super GT
Infobox sports league
teams= 16 (GT500)
Hiroaki IshuiraThe Super GT series, formerly known as the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship or JGTC (全日本GT選手権, "Zen Nihon GT Sensyuken"), is a grand touring car race series promoted by the GT-Association (GT-A). 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—established in 1994 by the JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation) via its subsidiary company the GT-A (GT Association)—replaced the defunct
All Japan Sports Prototype Championshipfor Group Ccars that was terminated by the end of 1994and in the same year Japanese Touring Car Championshipfor Group Atouring cars, which would adopt the supertouringformula 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 U.S. 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 Gr. A cars. The prototypes and European GT cars would only appear in one race to be joined by the IMSA and Group Ncars at the Suzuka 1000km.
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 shot through the roof 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
The JGTC would first venture abroad with its first oversea race at
Sepang International Circuit, Malaysiaand 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 Stateswith an exhibition race to be run as a with the D1 Grand Prixexhibition event at California Speedwayin Fontana, held during the week before Christmas in December 2004, which was not shown to be a success and would not return for the following season.
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.
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".
Now, because the plan of race in China was canceled and the series is held only in two countries (Japan and Malaysia), the series can return to be authorized by JAF to be called "Japanese Championship". But the GT-Association selected FIA to keep independent management of the series.
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 at the California Speedway(2005). The Malaysian leg of the race, held at Sepang International Circuitwas made an official race from 2001 and counted in the points.
Races were planned for both
Zhuhai International Circuitin 2004 and Shanghai International Circuitin 2005, but both events failed to materialize. Races are held either as a single long endurance race of 300km or greater such as 1000km Suzukaevent, or as a set of two sprint races.
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.
In order to ensure maximum excitement, both GT500 and GT300 groups are run at the same time although points are awarded separately for each group.
The top class in Super GT, GT500, is dominated by the Big 3 Japanese automakers:
NissanGT-R replacing 350Z, Honda(NSX) and Toyota( Lexus SC430AKA Soarer replacing the Supra) with some privateer teams running European marques such as Ferrari, Lamborghiniand McLaren.
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-inductionsystems to models which do not normally have it. The chassis may also be heavily modified, with lightweight tube-frame "clips" being allowed forward and back of 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 homologationversions of the race car's road car counterparts (although some companies, notably Honda and Nissan, have still developed homologation specials).
In recent years however, rule changes in both GT500 and FIA GT1 have brought the cars closer to each other, although GT500 cars still have a notable advantage in terms of aerodynamics—a
FIAGT1 spec Maserati MC12entered (and later withdrawn) by Team Goh was losing at least 1 second in the corners during (2006) pre-season testing at the Suzuka Circuit.
Electronic aids such as ABS, Traction Control and Stability control are not allowed even if fitted to the road going variant and
carbon fiberbrakes are prohibited. There are also restrictions regarding placement and size of aerodynamic aids such as wings and spoilers. 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; although here, as in many European and North American events,
Porschetends to dominate with its 911 GT3 model making up the bulk of the field. The big Japanese car makers also participate in this class, as well as more exotic cars from the likes of ASL, Moslerand Vemac( Lotus Elisetuner). Since 2006, European-style GT cars have chosen to concentrate in this series, with Lamborghinileading the move from the higher division with some success, including a class win in the opening round of the 2006 season at Suzuka.
Along with the standard GT cars, the new "Shiden" (MC/RT-16), a
Mooncraft/Riley Daytona Prototypecar reviving the original 1977 Mooncraft Shiden 77(紫電77) [ [http://www.mooncraft.jp/news/05_12_01.html ～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] ] also exists in GT300 class since 2006, getting outstanding results (losing the title to RX-7 with tied points but less wins in 2006, and won the title in 2007). Until early 2000s when FWD cars were being permitted to be converted to RWD configuration, many of these such as Mitsubishi FTOand Toyota Corolla Levin AE101 competed in its original configuration.
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. While engine outputs and modifications are at a lower level than the GT500 cars, the GT300 cars still post competitive times and races are very competitive.
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 maximums, thus restricing excessing 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 exhibition race at the California Speedway, a few teams were penalised after the race ended when race officials, a mix of SCCA and JAF officials (SCCA is a member of ACCUS/FIA, the American national govering body of the FIA; the JAF is the Japanese governing arm of the FIA) 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 where weight penalties are assigned depending on a cars performance during the race weekend. While this system is also used in other series like the
FIA GT, 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 season 2007 (GT500), the Takata NSX 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.
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 Tsuchiyawho raced for the ARTA team before transferring to a managerial role. 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 Takahashiwith 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 Onechampionship (almost always parallel with their involvement with Formula Nippon) including Ralf Schumacheror 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 but now with Direxiv) who is also well known as a D1GP competitor. 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 360and Masahiko Kondo, also a pop star, actor and racer turned team owner who competes in the GT500 category. The only foreign driver in the GT300 class is ex- Formula 3000driver 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.
1998 JGTC Fuji incident
Tetsuya Otais notable for surviving a fiery multi-car pileup he was involved in during a JGTC race at Fuji Speedwayon May 3, 1998, caused by a safety carwho sped twice over the recommended speed in torrential rain during a parade lap. Ota became seriously injured and as a result, he subsequently brought a lawsuit against the race organisers.
Current Super GT Series schedule
Dates listed here are the actual scheduled race days; practice session occurs two days prior and qualifying occurs one day prior
March 16at Suzuka Circuit
April 13at Okayama International Circuit
May 4at Fuji Speedway
June 22at Sepang International Circuit
July 27at Sportsland SUGO
August 24at Suzuka Circuit
September 14at Twin Ring Motegi
October 19at Autopolis
November 9at Fuji Speedway
*en/ja [http://www.supergt.net/en] Super GT website
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