Japanese GT Championship – 2004 Season Preview

With the opening race of the season this weekend at the TI AIDA circuit attracting a 39 car grid, the Japanese GT Championship continues to be one of the strongest national series in the world.

With factory backing from the Japanese ‘Big Three’ (Honda, Nissan and Toyota) continuing in the top GT500 class the technology race is as fierce as the racing itself

GT500

Nissan

With the much loved Skyline GT-R now retired from frontline competition, the weapon of choice for the Nissan backed teams is the new Fairlady Z (known as the 350Z outside Japan). Under the skin there is much of the NISMO hardware (and software) used in the Skyline, albeit updated for the 2004 Technical Regulations. Pre season testing seems to suggest that the new car should be right on the pace from the off.

Defending Drivers Champions Michael Krumm and Satoshi Motoyama both return in 2004 but with new teammates. Krumm joins with Masami Kageyama in the #22 car whilst Motoyama retains the privilege of the #1 on his Fairlady, and is joined by Briton Richard Lyons.

dailysportscar.com

Erik Comas, 1998 and 1999 drivers champion for Nissan, is back with the marque for 2004 after spending the 2003 season with Team Tom's. Comas will race alongside Toshihiro Kaneishi in the #3 Fairlady Z of Hasemi Motorsports (above).

Toyota

The well proven package that is the Toyota Supra is back for 2004, albeit in evolutionary form.

The main technical change is perhaps an unusual one, the adoption of a 4.5 litre n/a V8 engine, down from the 5.2-liter version of the 2003 car. This is a move designed to give the Supra favorable minimum weight and air restrictor size under the 2004 rules.

2003 title contenders ESSO Toyota Team Le Mans will field Juichi Wakisaka and Akira Iida in their #6 Supra. Marco Apicella joins Takeshi Tsuchiya in the #36 car of Toyota Team Tom's, the team's second (#37) car will be crewed by the 2003 All-Japan F3 Champion, Australian James Courtney, and young Japanese talent, Tatsuya Kataoka. TOMS switches to Bridgestone tires from Michelin in 2004.

A total of seven Supras are entered for the first race.

Honda

Honda works support is reduced to four teams this year, all of whom will field a highly developed NSX with a 3-litre twin-turbo V6. While Honda has been off the ultimate pace in pre season testing, it would be a brave pundit who would bet against a marque widely regarded as the world’s best engine designer.

Ex F1, CART and IRL star Shinji Nakano joins Team Kunimitsu to drive the #100 NSX, with Hiroki Kato. Ryo Michigami and Frenchman Sebastien Philippe share the 18 Takata Dome car while Tsugio Matsuda and Andre Lotterer join forces in the #32 Epson NSX. Interestingly Lotterer will be ‘re-acquainting’ himself with Toyota pilot James Courtney: the pair were team-mates in Jaguar’s junior F3 team in the 2001 British Championship.

Others

The first CARE Racing Ferrari F550 Maranello to race in Asia will be campaigned by Hitotsuyama Racing. The car is still making the running in European GT racing. There will be a huge amount of interest in how it shapes up in the JGTC, in the hands of Hidetoshi Mitsusada and Mikio Hitotsuyama.

Two Lamborghini Murcielago R-GTs are also due to join the championship this season, with entries from Team JLOC (Japan Lamborghini Owners Club) and Amprex Motorsport. The cars however will not be ready for round one, the JGTC cars delayed in the same way as the those due to enter the FIA GT series and the ALMS.

With no sign of the Yellow Corn McLaren F1 GTR on the round one entry list have we finally seen the last of the much loved supercar in frontline competition?

GT300

A bumper 23 car entry is posted for round one in the ‘Junior’ GT300 class, with some big hitters among the field.

M-Tec (previously known as Mugen) is entering a Honda NSX which is basically a downgraded GT500 car. A pair of Toyota Celicas (the car which took the 2003 class title) and two GT300 spec Nissan Fairlady Zs seem to look likely to bring the battle of the big three to GT300 too.

It won’t be a walkover for the big boys though. The British built Vemac is back, with cars entered by Team Mach and Team Leyjun. The new for 2003 ASL Garaiya returns with Autobacs Racing, but with the Nissan Fairlady Z’s 3.5 litre V6 replacing the 2003 2 litre turbo powerplant.

The 2002 GT300 winning Toyota MR-S (a hardtop version of the MR2) will be represented by two heavily revised cars, with the 2004 regulations permitting an extended (and more aerodynamic) nose. The engine is re-positioned too, now longitudinally mounted rather than the transverse format in which the car raced in previous seasons.

The dominant European GT marques, Porsche and Ferrari, are well represented too. Indeed the #11 Ferrari 360 Modena set the pace in pre-season testing, but is sure to be pressed hard by a field which also includes teams running cars as diverse as a rotary-engined Mazda RX7, the big V8 powered Mosler MT900R and the ever-popular Cusco Subaru Impreza.
Graham Goodwin

GT500 Entries

#1 Xanavi NISMO Satoshi Motoyama Richard Lyons (GB)
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#3 G'ZOX SSR Hasemi Toshihiro Kaneishi Erik Comas (F)
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#6 ESSO Ultraflo Juichi Wakisaka Akira Iida
TOYOTA SUPRA

#8 ARTA Katsutomo Kaneishi Daisuke Ito
HONDA NSX

#12 Calsonic Impul Benoit Treluyer (F) Yuji Ide
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#18 Takata Dome Ryo Michigami Sebastien Philippe (F)
HONDA NSX

#21 Hitotsuyama Racing Hidetoshi Mitsusada Mikio Hitotsuyama
FERRARI 550GTS MARANELLO

#22 Motul Pitwork Masami Kageyama Michael Krumm (D)
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#25 Eclipse Advan Manabu Orido Dominik Schwager (D)
TOYOTA SUPRA

#32 Epson Tsugio Matsuda Andre Lotterer (D)
HONDA NSX

#35 Yellow Hat Naoki Hattori Shigekazu Wakisaka
TOYOTA SUPRA

#36 Woodone TOM'S Takeshi Tsuchiya Marco Apicella (I)
TOYOTA SUPRA

#37 Dynacity TOM'S James Courtney (AUS) Tatsuya Kataoka
TOYOTA SUPRA

#38 au Cerumo Yuji Tachikawa Seiji Ara
TOYOTA SUPRA

#39 Denso SARD Jeremie Dufour (F) Andre Couto (POR)
TOYOTA SUPRA

#100 Raybrig Shinji Nakano Hiroki Kato
HONDA NSX

GT300 Entries

#2 Privee Zurich Kumho Kazuho Takahashi Akira Watanabe
HONDA NSX

#5 Project µ B-1 Mach-Go Tetsuji Tamanaka Go Mifune
VEMAC RD320R

#7 Amemiya Aspara Drink Shinichi Yamaji Hiroyuki Iiri
MAZDA RX-7

#9 Advan K-Studium Go Shimizu Shinya Hosokawa
MOSLER MT900R

#10 JIM Gainer Advan Tetsuya Tanaka Atsushi Yogo
FERRARI 360 MODENA

#11 JIM RodeoDrive Advan Hideshi Matsuda Ichijo Suga
FERRARI 360 MODENA

#16 M-TEC Tetsuya Yamano Hiroyuki Yagi
HONDA NSX

#17 Espelir Kosei a Masaoki Nagashima Masahiro Matsunaga
TOYOTA CELICA

#19 WedsSport Takayuki Aoki Nobuteru Taniguchi
TOYOTA CELICA

#20 FK/Massimo Advan Hiroshi Wada Yasuo Miyakawa
Porsche 911GT3RSR

#30 Reckless Kouta Sasaki Satoru Goto
TOYOTA MR-S

#31 A'PEX I-mobisess Minoru Tanaka Koji Matsuda
TOYOTA MR-S

#43 ARTA Autobacs ASL Morio Nitta Shinichi Takagi
GARAIYA

#51 NSC Auto-Staff Advan Masanobu Kato Katsuhiko Tsutsui
NISSAN SILVIA

#52 Project µ Taiyo Oil Cerumo Hironori Takeuchi Seigo Nishizawa
TOYOTA CELICA

#63 Leyjun Dunlop OSAMU Daiki Yoshimoto
VEMAC RD320R

#70 Fields Gaikokuya Advan Yoshimi Ishibashi Hiromi
PORSCHE 911GT3RS

#72 Advan Boro Akira Hirakawa Guts Jyonai
PORSCHE 911GT3RS

#77 Cusco Advan Katsuo Kobayashi Tatsuya Tanigawa
SUBARU IMPREZA

#80 Endless Daishin Advan Mitsuhiro Kinoshita Kazuki Hoshino
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#81 C-West Daishin Advan Masataka Yanagida Naofumi Omoto
NISSAN FAIRLADY Z

#111 Arktech Endless Advan Hiroya Iijima Takashi Ohi
PORSCHE 968

#910 Takamizawa-Seikotsuin Kazuyoshi Takamizawa Sunako Jukucho
PORSCHE 911GT3RS.

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.