Though it is now officially known as the SUPER GT, many of us, especially we Malaysians, do still call it the Japan GT.The Malaysian round, which will be held on 18- 19 June at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) is currently the only round held outside of Japan. As such, the SUPER GT will be a great boost for Malaysian tourism, with spectators from around the region expected to attend this annual event.
The series originally kicked-off with an exhibition round of the US/Canada based International Motor Sport GT series. Although most of the grid was made up by Japanese sedans, this is where Nissan made a strong impact with its Skyline GTRs on US soil being among the two competitive cars in Group A (touring cars).
In 1994, the Group C (sports racing cars) class, in which most Japanese teams took part, dissolved leaving the option to the GTA Company Limited with the sanction of the Japanese Automobile Federation and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to form what is called today, the SUPER GT.
Previously, because the races were all held in Japan, the SUPER GT was formerly known as the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship. As Japan is the world leader in the manufacturing of automobiles, pitting mainly Japanese make cars among each other for the world to see was only natural.
At the stroke of this millennium, the GT Association (who had Shanghai and Malaysia in mind) decided to hold a round outside Japan. So, in 2000, Malaysia was chosen to hold an exhibition race. This inaugural race marked the beginning of Malaysia’s involvement in this prestigious event.
With the success of the exhibition race and a vastly growing fan base in Malaysia and South East Asia, it is only natural that GTA officially made it a part of their calendar. Two years later, it is a permanent feature and is among the A class races in Malaysia, with the likes of Formula 1 and Moto GP.
The SUPER GT series is now the fastest Super Gran Touring race in the world.
There are two categories for the participating cars: GT500 and GT300 (cars with no more than 500 and 300 horsepower). These power outputs are capped via the use of intake restrictors although some heavier cars are given allowances to run larger restrictors to maintain parity.
Regulations in GT500 are considerably looser than most GT classifications, and teams are free to change engines with other models made by the manufacturer, change the alignment of the engine, or add forced-induction systems to models which do not normally have it, however from 2010 onwards all GT500 cars run V8 engines displacing 3.4 liters.
The new regulations result in cars that are possibly the fastest GT racing cars in the world. The rationale for this was to allow manufacturers to field competitive cars without having to spend large amounts of money for homologation versions of the race car’s road car counterparts (although some companies, notably Honda and Nissan, have still developed homologation specials).
The top class in SUPER GT, GT500 is dominated by the Big 3 Japanese automakers: Honda (HSV-010 GT replacing NSX Super GT), Nissan (GT-R replacing 350Z), and Toyota/Lexus (LFA replacing SC430, which replaced the Toyota Supra) with some private teams running European cars such as Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari 550-GTS, Lamborghini Murciélago or McLaren F1 GTR.
The GT300 category tends to be much more varied in terms of types of cars entered, although GT300 cars are much more regulated than their GT500 counterparts. This is because GT300 cars closely resemble road-going versions. Thus, the GT300 series is a racing category that has one of the most makes in the same time in the world.
In order to maintain competitiveness and prevent the spiraling budgets of teams, JGTC imposed strict limits on power, and heavy weight penalties on race winners in an openly-stated objective to keep on-track action close with an emphasis on keeping the race goers happy. The two most prominent regulations are parity and the success ballast.
Parity is the regulation of a car’s air intake. At the start of a season, participating cars are fitted with an air intake restrictor. This limits the car’s power to the stated class maximums, thus restricting excessive development to make a more powerful engine. Also, pit stops and driver changes during the race are conducted within mandatory windows, to prevent dominating tactics during a race.
The Success Ballast, however, is perhaps the best-known regulation in use. It is also known as the “weight handicap” where weight penalties are assigned depending on a cars performance during the race weekend. While this system is also used in other series like the FIA GT and the BTCC, who pioneered the system, the SUPER GT’s version of the system is notable in that weight penalties are meted out more aggressively. While other series mete out penalties based on final position at the end of the race, SUPER GT also adds ballast based on qualifying position and individual lap times, and even in specific modifications.
Such regulation also keeps the race highly competitive as it makes the race more skilled based, opposed to teams with higher budgets dominating the race.
A week before the official Test Race was scheduled to take place at the Okayama Circuit, the 2011 SUPER GT Series was rocked with news of a terrible Japanese tragedy. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the northeastern seaboard of Japan resulted in countless loss of lives and property.
The earthquake, the strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan, also led to the cancellation of the Okayama test and postponement of the First Round of the SUPER GT that was also scheduled to take place at Okayama on 2-3 April 2011.
However, as Japan gets back to its feet, the SUPER GT second round race is scheduled for 30 April – 1 May at Fuji Speedway, while the round one race has been postponed to 21 – 22 May at the Okayama International Circuit.
Round three will take place as scheduled on 18-19 June at the Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia.
For the past ten years, SIC has been the event organizer of this coveted series, however, for the 2011 and 2012 editions, Kuala Lumpur based JP Performance Motorsport has acquired the rights to hold the race.
This year’s SUPER GT, promises to be bigger and better than ever.
On the tracks, defending champion for the GT 500 category TEAM IMPUL will fight to retain their title with their CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, Nissan GT-R R35/VRH 34A driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Brazilian Joao Paulo Lima de Oliveira, replacing Italian Ronnie Quintarelli. Quintarelli moved to team MOLA, the GT300 Class Champion in the 2008 season, who will be participating in GT500 class this year.
Team Weider Honda Racing will try to snatch the crown from Nissan, after coming in third last year (behind TWO Nissans). With Loic Duvall from France and Takashi Kogure behind the wheel, we foresee a tough fight for the title. Kogure is the SUPER GT record holder for the fastest lap in Sepang, clocking 1’54.306 in 2007 in a TAKATA DOME NSX.
Other than the action on track, spectators will also be treated to mini concerts and performances which celebrate the rich cultures of Japan. The Sepang International Circuit will also be transformed into a carnival city filled with stalls and booths where motor enthusiasts will be able to eat, shop and play while experiencing the heat of excitement from the race.
SUPER GT is not only about the cars. As part of their CSR Programme, there will be a blood donation drive where we welcome everyone to come and donate blood for the needy.
Other activities such as the GT Queen Pageant as well as the Kids Walkabout and Safari Bus Ride are yearly crowd pleasers. So, to sum it all up, SUPER GT is fun for the WHOLE family!
source from SuperGT.com.my
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