JGTC USA – Getting Ready To Go
© Gary Horrocks
To paraphrase a line
from the Wizard of Oz, “this isn’t Kansas”, and
believe me, this isn’t home for me. In more ways than one,
the GT Live event at California Speed way is far from home.
let me touch on the weather. Nothing like driving a convertible
in 70-80 degree weather to put yourself in the mood for Christmas.
Simply unbelievable weather, but that’s not the reason for
this report. The reason is the GT Live, or in to focus in on the
real reason, it is actually the JGTC race. This weekend serves a
number of firsts for this series. It is their first time in the
United States for the series, as well as their first time to be
racing on the high banked corners.
The schedule for the
weekend is highlighted by the “JGTC 2004 All-Star 200”,
which takes place on Saturday evening. This race is to run for 200
miles and is to start at 16:30, which obviously will include running
into the dark. Pit stops and driver changes are mandatory for this
race. Also on the schedule are two 24 minute sprint races, taking
place on Sunday, utilizing only the infield portion of the circuit.
The remainder of the
weekend is devoted to the activities that are near and dear to the
“Fast and Furious” generation. Drifting (think of figure
skating for cars), car shows and the obligatory race queens are
all part of the weekend, as well as autocrossing and a myriad of
other opportunities. And the crowd is quite large, showing that
the promoters here have indeed hit the target.
In Japan, the JGTC is
huge. The races are spectacular, and much like here in the States
with NASCAR, the drivers are considered heroes. Currently, Nissan,
Toyota and Honda use the series as a way to showcase their products.
The cars of
the JGTC are very spectacular. The rules are rather wide open, at
least for now. Who knows what will happen with the discussions of
the Super GT concept and where it will lead, but for now, the regulations
are pretty wide open. The concept is much like the old Group 5 regulations
that were popular in the ‘70s, being very much a silhouette
type series. To summarize the regulations, the cars must be based
upon an existing and homologated car, but may be powered by any
type of engine that is in the respective current product line. The
main structure of the car must be utilized, but may be modified
as allowed. The areas beyond the bulkheads are free, meaning they
can be cut away and replaced by a tubular structure. The suspension
type is pretty much wide open. As is obvious, bodywork is also open,
as long as specific regulations are met.
As in many GT race series,
the JGTC is also divided into two classes, GT500 and GT300. The
dividing line for the classes is roughly based upon horsepower,
with the numbers representing the maximum horsepower, which is controlled
through the usual method of restrictors. Much like in many of the
GT series around the world, handicap weights are utilized to help
equate the performance of the cars and teams.
By the nature of this
weekend, it is to be viewed more as an event that a traditional
race, but even so, it is quite apparent that many of the teams involved
are of very high quality. The effort that they are putting forth
to even be here is impressive. It is their first time here in the
US for them and all of the factory teams are anxious to make their
It may be California,
but for this weekend at least, the Japanese series is what’s