Team Goh’s Maserati For Super GT
The popular and super competitive Super GT Championship has existed in splendid isolation from the European GT racing scene for many years. Whilst the McLaren F1 GTRs shone brightly in their day, the factory-backed Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas have dominated for almost a decade - with Skylines, Supras and NSXs (and latterly the Fairlady Z) providing almost a clean sweep of race wins since 1997.

That could be about to change however, as the latest generation of European GT1 car takes another crack at the GT500 crown.

With the Ferrari 550 and Lamborghini Murcielagos already seemingly dispatched by the Japanese cars, what hope for the Maserati MC12 which Team Goh is bringing out to play?

The car is a race winner already, this the chassis that took the first two race wins for the MC12 in the FIA GT Championship of 2004.

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Kazimuchi Goh is deadly serious about the effort and is embarking on a European pre-season test programme with the car, with 2006 driving squad Seiji Ara and Jan Magnussen, before the season opener at Suzuka in mid March.

That’s great news for Super GT fans but bad news for Mr Goh: “I’m really looking forward to the Super GT season but I would have loved to race at Sebring.”

The schedule makes that impossible, but the car might be seen in the ALMS later in the year.

“I would like to try to race at Petit Le Mans: we have the correct bodywork that would be needed but would need to arrange the appropriate tyres.”

So hang fire ALMS fans for a possible Team Goh entry at PLM. For now though it’s all eyes on the Super GT crown - and time for some answers from Mr. Goh on the programme so far, starting with progress on pre-season testing:

dailysportscar.com“The car was shaken down at Adria with Andrea Bertolini and Seiji Ara. The weather was very bad, but Bertolini told me that the Bridgestones were giving as much grip in the wet as other tyres do in dry conditions. Realistically in Super GT we have to run the Bridgestones to be competitive. It is very unusual for Bridgestone to agree to testing in Europe, but we are putting more time on them with a session at Vallelunga this weekend, where Seiji and Jan will get together with the car for the first time. We’ll follow that with another test at Misano two weeks later.

“While it will be very difficult to see how we compare to the competition in these early tests, there will be the chance to see how we compare to the Mercedes CLK GTR in 1997/98, as the car was tested at Vallelunga on Bridgestones too. It will be interesting to see how things have moved on!”

It’s not as irrelevant a comparison as it perhaps seems: the current crop of Super GT cars already laps more quickly at Suzuka than the cream of the old school GT1 cars managed in 1997/98

And the time seems right to match the European cars to the Japanese marques. As with many factory-backed efforts, the corporate reins are tight and the Super GT organizers, despite currently healthy grids are, no doubt, fully aware that a single pull-out from a factory might well leave them looking at a shortage of cars in the future. Witness the recent problems in DTM for an example of how a seemingly healthy series can be plunged into problems astonishingly quickly.

“The organizers want us in the championship very much,” confirms Mr. Goh. “They want to see more different cars racing in Japan and I believe they see this entry as a benchmark. We will see the current GT500 cars slowed down if we are too slow. They are very serious about getting FIA spec. cars involved.”

There seems no sign though of the suggested liaison between the Super GT and FIA GT Championships. Instead, there’s more a move by the Japanese series to widen the net for more potential entrants, for what looks like becoming a more regional rather than national championship.

“There will still be differences between the Japanese cars and the Maserati,” adds Kazumichi Goh. “While our weight will be the same, we will have perhaps a 1mm bigger restrictor and possibly 30 or 40 bhp more, but we’ll have less downforce than they will. We will keep the original (long nose) bodywork for Super GT and the organizers are also allowing us to run carbon brakes, which will help with the weight.

“I believe though that there is a big chance that we will see some compromise to help us to be competitive. Without that it will be very difficult for us.”

Will Team Goh show the kind of form that we have seen from the MC12s in Europe, or will they struggle a little to be ultimately competitive, as the ALMS car did in 2005?

With a team with Team Goh’s pedigree in charge though, who’s brave enough to bet that the Big Three of Japanese racing won’t be paying very close attention to progress over in Italy just now?
GG

 

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