New Honda, Lilou Wadoux in GT300: Super GT starts this weekend

As pre-season testing draws to a close, Super GT is preparing for a year of many changes.

Published on 09/04/2024 à 09:57

Tetsuya Tsuzuki

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New Honda, Lilou Wadoux in GT300: Super GT starts this weekend

Lilou Wadoux will aim for podiums in the GT300 class at the wheel of a Ferrari 296 GT3 - Photo: Ponos

In Japan, the number 1 GT championship is preparing to return to the winding Okayama track this week. The pre-season tests, held over two weekends, suggested an initial hierarchy. There Toyota GR Supra showed its speed on the wet tracks in Okayama and Fuji to set the best times there. In the dry at Fuji, it was the new Honda Civic Type R-GT which stood out as the fastest. Note that the latter is the first 4-door car participating in the premier category, the GT500. Masaaki Bandoh, Chairman of GTA, promoter of the Super GT series, said he welcomed Honda to use Super GT as a strong focus of the brand's marketing strategy.

In GT500, only three foreign drivers are in the running. Former champions Bertrand Baguette (Nissan) and Ronnie Quintarelli (Nissan) should play the leading roles. Frenchman Giuliano Alesi (Toyota) will have his work cut out to mitigate criticism of him following his lack of results in the past.

In the GT300 category, three official drivers from European manufacturers took the wheel in these official tests: Bruno Spengler (BMW), Marco Sorensen (Aston Martin) and Lilou Wadoux (Ferrari). The latter, however, was the victim of an off-track incident, hitting the barriers during the first day of testing at Fuji, but the Frenchwoman escaped without injuries. The 22-year-old from Amiens will support Japanese Kei Cozzolino, seen three times at Le Mans in GTE Am and champion of the GT World Challenge Asia in Pro-Am in 2022.

Concerning the GT3 category, the collaboration with SRO for the implementation of the BoP on cars participating in the GT300 class continues. Michelin withdrew from the GT500 class at the end of last year, but the French tire maker will continue to supply stock tires for three GT3s in the GT300 class this year including a BMW and a Ferrari. The German firm as well as the Italian will make two official drivers available to the teams.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were plans to hold two overseas races, one in Thailand and the other in Malaysia. But even after the pandemic, transportation costs skyrocketed due to a global shortage of containers. The yen (Japan's official currency) being weak, the Super GT is still not able to be exported even if the desire is not feigned.

Changes to the sporting and technical regulations of Super GT in 2024

Running distance 

There will still be three 300 km races, but also three new 3-hour races and two 350 km races. Last year there were three 300km races and five 450km races.

Reserve pilot

The “Reserve Driver System” has been added as a new addition to the sporting regulations. This means that if one of the two starting drivers cannot race due to unforeseen circumstances (sudden illness, injury during the round preceding the race, etc.), the pre-registered reserve driver will be able to take his place.

Safety

Last year, several major accidents occurred not only in Super GT, but also in Super Formula. In Japan, concerns were growing about the safety of auto racing.

To address these issues, GTA aimed to reduce cornering speed and to this end, the developer revised the minimum ground clearance for the GT500s, and added weight to the GT300s.

Minimum ground clearance increased for GT500 cars

To reduce the amount of downforce, the minimum thickness of the skid block that controls the car's minimum ground clearance has been increased by 5mm. The expected lap time at Suzuka would be around 0”7 to 1” slower.

Qualifications

The final position will be decided by the combined times of both drivers. This means that everyone will participate in Q1 and Q2. The duration has also changed slightly since Q2 has been reduced to 8 minutes compared to 10 until now. Q1 remains at 10.

Additionally, while in the past the driver taking pole position received one point, starting this season the pole sitter will receive three, 2e two and 3e a point.

This change in the qualifying format is a measure linked to the reduction in the number of sets of tires allowed for each round.

Tires

Last season the number of sets that could be brought for a round (from official practice to qualifying and the race) was five sets of dry track tires, but starting this season the number is reduced by one. Four sets of dry tires will be marked before the start of the official practice session. Only one of these can then be used during qualifying. Competitors must start the race with this same game.

Fuel

Since last season, the GT500 category has opted for Carbon Neutral Fuel (CNF), a synthetic fuel that does not use any fossil fuels, “GTA R100”. But for the GT300 category, it was decided to postpone its introduction. From the 2024 season, the GT300 category will adopt the CNF “GTA R50” which is a synthetic fuel containing 50% ingredients of biological origin.

“In the future, we plan to locally produce e-fuel based on carbon dioxide and hydrogen, indicated Masaaki Bandoh. We would like to continue the development by introducing this into Super GT by 2030.”

We do not know whether Masaaki Bandoh, president of GTA, promoter of Super GT, is an environmentalist or not. But he's adamant about keeping the race car exhaust sound. “I would like to organize races where we could enjoy the sound of the exhaust in front of a crowded audience. »

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