JGTC Champion Richard Lyons
the recent JGTC-USA race, it was difficult to be allowed the time
to speak with the drivers, but Nissan was 'generous enough' to offer
10 minutes with one of the 2004 JGTC Drivers Champions, Irishman
Richard Lyons – writes Gary Horrocks.
the JGTC title in 2004, Richard was also the Formula Nippon (F3000)
series champion. So, why race in Japan?
to Japan to get the opportunity to work with a manufacturer. There
(here), they feel it is important to promote their product with
racing and it gives me the opportunity to live with a good life
style. It’s been quite good for me.”
Lyons also feels that
racing in Japan is a more fair or level playing field. “Here
in Japan, it all depends on how good a driver you are. In Europe,
you need funding to compete.”
About the JGTC, Richard
feels that “this is the best in the world. There is nothing
close in GT racing anywhere. The manufacturer interest is strong
and because of that, their backing is very strong.”
no matter how strong he feels the JGTC to be, he still wants his
career path to be directed towards open wheeled cars. “I’m
only 25 years old. I feel I have a healthy future for me, as I’m
still young enough. I think I have the time and ability to still
make it into F1 or into Champ Cars in the really near future.”
He got his start in open
wheeled cars in 1996, after starting in karts when he was nine.
This path has brought him to be the champion - in an open wheeled
series that has seen the likes of both Michael and Ralf Schumacher
It was in 2001 that he
first tried his hand at sportscar racing, when he drove a McLaren
F1 GTR in the Suzuka 1000km. From that start, he signed for a full
season in 2002 with the Dome-Mugen team, in the JGTC. In 2003, he
signed with NISMO and co-drove with Masami Kageyama, when Masami
won the Drivers Championship.
That season was the last
year Nissan raced the all conquering Skyline. While racing that
machine, they were also developing the 350 Z, which took over as
the car for 2004. In essence, owing to allowances in the rules,
the Z is a front / mid-engined car with a transaxle, motivated by
a 2.5 liter, twin turbo V-6, restricted to 500 HP. The development
obviously went well, as the results indicate.
Despite the California
race only being an exhibition, Richard stared that “this is
a big event for us. It is the first time for the series to race
in the United States and we need to show who’s boss. In fact,
we were told to win, no matter the cost.”
for those of us watching, we never got to see how competitive Richard
could be in the race, as damage put the #1 out very early. He was
quickest in every practice and qualifying session though, demonstrating
the confidence that a championship title (or two) can bring.
It is stating
the obvious that the US market is very important to the Japanese
manufacturers, and by all indications, the series will be back again
next year, under the Super GT name. Whether Richard will be part
of that is yet to be seen, but given his ambition, that could be
doubtful (on the top step after Round 6 of the JGTC, below).