Super GT (stylized as SUPER GT) is a grand touring car racing series that began in 1993. Originally titled as the Zen Nihon GT Senshuken (全日本GT選手権), generally referred to as either the JGTC or the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship, the series was renamed to Super GT in 2005. It is the top level of sports car racing in Japan.
The series is sanctioned by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) and run by the GT Association (GTA). Autobacs has served as the title sponsor of the series since 2005.
The JGTC years (1993–2004)
The JGTC (Japanese Grand Touring Championship) was established in 1993 by the (JAF) via its subsidiary company the GTA (GT Association), replacing the defunct All Japan Sports Prototype Championship for Group C cars and the Japanese Touring Car Championship for Group A touring cars, which instead would adopt the supertouring formula. Seeking to prevent the spiraling budgets and one-team/make domination of both series, 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 fans happy.
Super GT (2005–present)
The JGTC had planned to hold a race during the 2005 season at the Shanghai International Circuit in China, in addition to the existing overseas round at Sepang in Malaysia. However, holding the series in more than two countries would have meant the JGTC would lose its status as a "national championship" under the International Sporting Code of the FIA, and therefore could not keep "Japanese Championship" in its name. The series would instead be classified as an "international championship" by the FIA, and would therefore require direct authorization from it, rather than the JAF.
Therefore, on December 10, 2004, it was announced that JGTC would be renamed "Super GT", with the goals of "challenge to the world", and "challenge to entertainment". However, despite the name change, Super GT has continued to only hold one overseas race per year; in theory, it could regain its status as a national championship and return to JAF jurisdiction.
In 2014, Super GT and the German touring car series DTM announced the creation of "Class One", which would unify GT500's and DTM's technical regulations, allowing manufacturers to race in both series with a single specification of car. After some delays, the full unification of technical regulations was set for 2019.
The series made its first international expansion in 2000, holding an exhibition race at Sepang in Malaysia. After a further exhibition race in 2001, it gained points-paying championship status in 2002, staying on the calendar until 2014, when it was replaced by the Buriram circuit in Thailand. The series made its only race outside of Asian continent when it held an exhibition race at Auto Club Speedway in California, United States in 2004; it was the last race to run under JGTC banner, and the only night race the series had organized so far.
Generally, races are single events of at least 300 kilometers, though in 2011, the minimum distance was reduced to 250 km due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Furthermore, the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes forced the GTA to cancel its Autopolis round, substituting the race with Super GT's sole instance of a double-header event, comprising two 250 km races held at Motegi.
The 1000 km Suzuka rejoined the series in 2006, becoming the longest and most prestigious race on the calendar. It was a round of the series until 2017, as the race became a part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge starting in 2018, although all GT300 cars remained eligible to participate. Suzuka remained on the Super GT calendar, but with a shorter 300 km race.
In 2018, Super GT started holding a 500 mile (805 km) race at Fuji, replacing the 1000 km Suzuka as the series' endurance round. As with its predecessor, the Fuji 500 mile race is the longest race on the calendar, and awards double championship points.
The cars are divided into two groups: GT300 and GT500. The names of the categories derive from their traditional maximum horsepower limit - in the early years of the series, GT500 cars would have no more than 500 horsepower, GT300 cars would max out at around 300 hp. However, the current generation of GT500 powerplants produce in excess of 650 horsepower. Meanwhile, in present-day GT300, the horsepower range varies from around 400 to just over 550 horsepower; however, GT300 cars have far less downforce than their GT500 counterparts.
In both groups, the car number is assigned to the team, in which each team is allowed to choose whichever number they want as long as the number isn't already used by any other team. The number assigned to each team is permanent, and may only change hands when the team exits the series. In addition, only defending team champions are allowed to use number 0 (for GT300 champions) and 1 (for GT500 champions), although it isn't mandatory for defending champions to use those numbers.
For easy identification, GT500 cars run white headlight covers, windshield decals, and number panels, while GT300 cars run yellow versions of those items.
The top class in Super GT, GT500, is dominated by the three largest automakers in Japan - Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. Between 2006 to 2019, Toyota was represented in GT500 by its luxury vehicle brand, Lexus, after the retirement of the Toyota Supra from the series; the Supra returned in 2020 following the revival of the nameplate. The GT500 class is composed entirely of manufacturer-supported teams, the giants of the Japanese racing industry.
Since 2014, GT500 cars have been powered by single-turbocharged, inline four-cylinder engines with two liters of displacement and producing over 650 horsepower. The cars are tube-frame silhouette racing cars similar to those seen in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). The advancements in aerodynamics and horsepower, combined with an ongoing tyre war driving even higher speeds, have made the GT500 class the fastest form of production-based sports car racing today. The pace of a GT500 car is roughly equivalent to that of the fastest non-hybrid Le Mans Prototypes.
For many years, the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the Toyota Supra, and the Honda NSX represented their respective brands in GT500. Today, the three cars competing in GT500 are the Nissan GT-R (R35), the revived Toyota GR Supra, and the second-generation Honda NSX. Other models, such as the Nissan Fairlady Z, Lexus SC 430, Lexus RC F, and Lexus LC 500 have been used, as well as the Honda HSV-010 GT, a prototype car developed specifically for Super GT with its planned road-going variant having been cancelled.
In the earlier years of the GT500 category, a number of foreign manufacturers entered cars in the series, with varying success. The Porsche 911 GT2 and the BMW-powered McLaren F1 GTR are, to date, the only foreign cars to win the GT500 championship, when the former won the teams' title in 1995 and the latter won both titles in 1996. A longtail version of the F1 GTR would later score a race victory in 2001. The Ferrari F40 also won a race in the early years of GT500. The last foreign-built car to enter the series was the Aston Martin DBR9, which fared poorly in its brief run in 2009 - illustrating the overwhelming advantage in raw pace that the GT500 class cars had over the FIA GT1 category cars that dominated the landscape in Europe; Team Goh, who entered the 1996 F1 GTRs, planned to enter a Maserati MC12 in 2006, but withdrew during testing for similar reasons.
Four-door sedans have never run in the GT500 class, despite the regulations being changed in 2012 to permit their entry. In 2010, front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout became the only permitted layout in the class, prompting Honda to initially replace the first generation-based NSX GT with the HSV-010. In 2014, Honda was granted a waiver to allow the NSX-Concept GT and NSX-GT (both second-generation based models) to run with midship engine to match the road car's engine position; the waiver expired at the end of 2019 season, after which Honda was required to modify the NSX-GT with engine placement moved to the front.
New GT500 cars were introduced in 2014 in preparation for the future Class One, including the first car in the class to utilize a KERS-assisted hybrid powertrain, the Honda NSX Concept-GT. Common aerodynamic regulations with the DTM were adopted, as was Class One's turbocharged four-cylinder engine specification. Furthermore, the 2014 rules overhaul also increased the cars' downforce by 30%, while lowering costs. Aerodynamic development above a "design line" wrapping around the fenders, bumpers, and doorsills was restricted. Over sixty common parts were introduced, including the brakes, diffuser, and rear wing.
In response to increasing cornering speeds, another aerodynamic overhaul was introduced in 2017, lowering downforce by 25%. Furthermore, KERS units were banned, although the only manufacturer to utilize such systems, Honda, had already discontinued their usage in 2016.
The turbochargers are mandated from the start of 2014 season. The turbo configuration is single-turbocharged and producing the turbo boost level pressure up to 3.5 bar (51 psi). Swiss-American turbocharger company Garrett Advancing Motion which is a spin-off company of Honeywell International Inc. currently supplies exclusive turbocharger kits including wastegate for all Super GT GT500 Class One cars from 2014 season onwards using an 846519-15 model. The turbocharger spin rev limit spins up to 150,000 rpm but not exceeding 155,000 rpm due to higher turbo boost pressure.
|SC 430||RC F ||LC 500|
|Honda||NSX||HSV-010 GT||NSX Concept-GT ||NSX |
GT500 Specifications (2014-present)
- Engine displacement: 2.0 L (122 cu in) DOHC inline-4
- Gearbox: 6-speed paddle shift gearbox
- Weight: Over 1,020 kg (2,249 lb) including driver and fuel
- Power output: 650 hp (485 kW)
- Fuel: 102 RON unleaded gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 120 litres (32 US gallons; 26 imperial gallons)
- Fuel delivery: Direct fuel injection
- Aspiration: Single-turbocharged
- Length: 5,010 mm (197 in) including rear wing
- Width: 1,950 mm (77 in)
- Wheelbase: 2,750 mm (108 in) fixed
- Steering: Servo-assisted rack and pinion
Unlike GT500, both works-backed and independent teams compete in GT300, so the field tends to be much more varied in terms of types of cars entered. As in GT500, the major Japanese automakers participate in this class, entering cars such as the Toyota Prius and Subaru BRZ, which comply with JAF-GT regulations. However, the GT300 class is predominantly composed of GT3-class cars from European manufacturers such as Audi and Mercedes, although Lexus, Nissan and Honda are also represented in the class by GT3 cars. This reflects a growing interest in the series from European manufacturers, with Audi and BMW fielding works-supported entries. Lexus, Nissan, and Subaru also campaign works-supported cars in the class. Detuned GT500 cars also made occasional appearance, with the M-TEC NSX winning the GT300 title in 2004, the last under JGTC banner.
The GT300 class used to host more exotic cars from the likes of ASL, Mosler, Mooncraft, and Vemac (a Lotus tuner). However, starting in 2006, teams increasingly chose instead to campaign European GT cars, a trend that accelerated in 2010 with the introduction of GT3 cars to the series. In response to the decline of locally produced entries from specialist manufacturers, the GTA worked with Dome to create the "Mother Chassis", a low-cost GT300 platform, with the first MC car entering the series in 2014. Mother Chassis cars utilize a standard Dome-produced tub and GTA-branded Nissan VK45DE engine, while maintaining the appearance of production cars such as the Toyota 86, Lotus Evora, and Toyota Mark X. The MC concept proved to be popular with independent teams, as well as competitive, with the Toyota 86 MC winning the GT300 championship in 2016.
One of the more unique GT300 competitors was the Mooncraft Shiden MC/RT-16, a Riley Daytona Prototype-based revival of the original 1977 Mooncraft Shiden 77 (紫電77). It competed from 2006 to 2012, narrowly losing the title in 2006, and winning the championship in 2007. Front-wheel drive cars such as the Mitsubishi FTO, Toyota Celica and Cavalier, a rarity in top-level circuit racing, are further examples of unique GT300 machines. They competed in their original configurations until the early 2000s, when FWD cars were being permitted to be converted to rear-wheel drive configuration. The FWD cars were mostly unsuccessful, failing to win any championships. Rear-wheel drive cars dominated the series until 2008, when an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza developed by Cusco won in Sepang. An open top car, Renault Sport Spider, made a one-off participation in 1997, also with lack of success.
Hybrid cars first raced in the GT300 class in 2012, when apr introduced their Toyota Prius apr GT, and Team Mugen fielded a Honda CR-Z GT. Both cars were heavily modified from their production counterparts. The Prius was powered by a 3.4 liter V8 LMP1 engine, which worked in concert with production Hybrid Synergy Drive components; the CR-Z utilized a 2.8 liter V6 LMP2 engine and a 50 kW Zytek electric motor. Both the CR-Z and Prius were mid-engined, differing from their front-engined road-going counterparts; this resulted in the CR-Z's withdrawal after the 2015 season, as new regulations for 2016 stipulated that GT300 cars' engines were to be located in the same position as in their production counterparts. However, apr took advantage of a loophole in the regulations to continue to race their mid-engine Prius until 2018, when the team was required to build a new, front-engine Prius.
The development of GT300 cars is much more regulated than that of their GT500 counterparts; the GTA works with the Stephane Ratel Organisation to balance the performance of all GT300 cars via technical adjustments in order to create close racing. While the GT3 cars in the class are closely related to production cars, the JAF-GT machines differ from production vehicles to a greater degree, and in the case of the Mother Chassis cars, share little more than a badge and exterior styling with their road-going counterparts. While engine outputs are at a lower level than the GT500 cars, the GT300 cars still post competitive times and races are relatively tight when combined with GT500 traffic. As it is becoming increasingly more difficult for GT500 cars to overtake GT300s, the GTA may review the speed difference between the two classes in the future, especially if the pace of the GT300 cars continues to increase.
|ASL||ASL Garaiya||JAF-GT||2005, 2007–2012|
|Aston Martin||Aston Martin V8 Vantage||FIA GT2||2010–2012||Served until Round 1, 2012|
|Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3||FIA GT3||2012–2014|
|Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3||FIA GT3||2019–present|
|Audi||Audi R8 LMS||FIA GT3||2012–2016 (first generation)
2016–present (second generation)
|BMW||BMW Z4 M Coupé||JAF-GT||2008–2009|
|BMW Z4 GT3||FIA GT3||2011–2015|
|BMW M6 GT3||FIA GT3||2016–2018, 2020–present|
|Bentley||Bentley Continental GT3||FIA GT3||2017–2018|
|Chevrolet||Chevrolet Corvette C6||JAF-GT||2005, 2008|
|Chevrolet Corvette Z06-R||FIA GT3||2011–2013|
|Chevrolet Corvette C7||FIA GT3||2019–present|
|Ferrari||Ferrari 360 Modena||JAF-GT||2005–2009|
|Ferrari 458 Italia||FIA GT2
2012–2013 Rd.3, 2015 (GT3)
|Ferrari 488 GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Ford||Ford GT||JAF-GT||2006||Powered by a Ford Zetec engine|
2018–present (FIA GT3)
|JAF-GT specification is the first generation NSX|
FIA GT3 specification is the second generation NSX
|Honda CR-Z||JAF-GT||2012–2015||Petrol-electric hybrid|
2012–2015 (FIA GT3)
|Lamborghini Huracán GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Lexus||Lexus IS 350||JAF-GT||2008–2012|
|Lexus RC-F GT3||FIA GT3||2015–present|
|Lotus||Lotus Exige||JAF-GT||2005||As spot participant at the Malaysian round|
|Lotus Evora||JAF-GT||2015–present||Mother Chassis platform|
|McLaren||McLaren MP4-12C||FIA GT3||2013–2015|
|McLaren 720S GT3||FIA GT3||2019|
|Mercedes-Benz||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG||FIA GT3||2012–2017|
|Mercedes-AMG GT3||FIA GT3||2016–present|
|Mooncraft||Mooncraft Shiden||JAF-GT||2006–2012||Based on a Daytona Prototype|
|Mosler||Mosler MT900||JAF-GT||2005–2007, 2010–2011||As a spot participant in 2009 and 2012|
|Nissan||Nissan Fairlady Z||JAF-GT||2005–2010|
|Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||FIA GT3||2012–present (first generation)
2018–present (second generation)
|Porsche||Porsche 911 GT3||FIA GT2
|Subaru||Subaru Impreza WRX STi||JAF-GT||2005–2008||4WD-equipped 4-door sedan|
|Subaru Legacy||JAF-GT||2009–2011||4WD-equipped 4-door sedan|
|Toyota Corolla Axio||JAF-GT||2009–2011||4-door sedan|
|Toyota Prius||JAF-GT||2012–present||Petrol-electric hybrid sedan|
|Toyota 86||JAF-GT||2014–present||Mother Chassis platform. Spot entry in 2014.|
|Toyota Mark X||JAF-GT||2017–2019||Mother Chassis platform. 4-door sedan.|
|Toyota GR Supra GT300||JAF-GT||2020–present|
- Engine displacement: Free
- Aspiration: Naturally-aspirated and single or twin-turbocharged
- Number of cylinders: Minimum 4 but not exceeding 10 cylinders
- Allowed engine shape: Inline and V
- Gearbox: 5 or 6-speed paddle shift gearbox
- Power output: Various
- Fuel: 102 RON unleaded gasoline
- Fuel delivery: Free (direct and indirect injection)
- Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion
Super GT is unique in its open and blunt statement that it is committed to providing exciting racing first, at the expense of runaway investment by works teams. GT500 cars are fitted with many common parts, lowering costs and equalizing the performance of those parts across all competitors. In the GT300 class, air restrictor sizes, minimum weights, ride heights, and maximum turbo boost pressures are modified on a race-to-race basis to balance performance across all cars. All adjustments to the regulations and the balance of performance are publicly accessible.
The regulations stipulate that no single driver drive over two-thirds of the race distance, which affects the timing of pit stops and driver changes, therefore preventing strategy from dominating the competition. Formerly, the regulations went further and required pit stops and driver changes be done within mandatory windows; in 2004, during an exhibition race held at Fontana, a few teams were penalised after the race ended when race officials discovered their pit stops came one lap before the mandatory window had opened.
Perhaps the best-known handicap system in use in the Super GT is its "success ballast" system, known in the series as the "weight handicap". Weight penalties are assigned depending on a car's performance during the race, similar to systems used in the DTM and the BTCC. The system metes out two kilograms of ballast per point scored; it formerly added ballast based on qualifying positions and individual lap times. Stickers on the cars display every car's weight handicap level. In the 2007 season, the Takata NSX team achieved a record-breaking 5 pole positions in the first 7 races, but due to the weight handicap system, they only won one race among those seven. Such regulations keep the championship in play up to the final race of the season: only two GT500 teams (ARTA in 2007 and MOLA in 2012) and one GT300 team (GAINER with André Couto in 2015) have managed to clinch a driver's championship prior to the final race.
Following repeated cases of teams and drivers not winning a single race but still winning the championship (in 2003, neither the GT500 nor GT300 champions won a single race in particular), the handicap system was changed in 2009 to combat sandbagging, discouraging a team from intentionally performing poorly in order to secure a more favorable weight handicap. The ballast is now halved in the penultimate race and lifted altogether in final race for teams that participated in every round of the season. Teams missing only one round receive halved-ballast in the final race instead.
In 2017, the weight handicap system for GT500 cars was amended to add fuel flow restrictions. Actual weight ballast will be capped at 50 kilograms for reasons of practicality and safety. When a car's assigned ballast exceeds 50 kilograms, it will be assigned a lesser amount of weight ballast, but a fuel flow restriction will be imposed, the severity of which increases according to the size of the assigned weight handicap. While the amount of actual weight ballast carried may vary, the weight handicap stickers on the cars will continue to display the assigned weight handicap.
Like the series, Super GT drivers are very popular in Japan with a growing international fanbase. One driver who gained international appeal is Keiichi Tsuchiya, who raced for the Taisan and ARTA teams before moving to a managerial role upon his retirement in 2004. Other drivers who were famously associated with the series and still are actively involved in Super GT through team ownership are Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Aguri Suzuki, and Kunimitsu Takahashi, with the latter being a former President of the GT Association, which runs the series. The series also attracts drivers who see the series as a stepping-stone to Formula One such as Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa, as well as former F1 drivers, most famously Érik Comas, who was the series' most successful driver until he stepped down from his position as a number one driver, and 2016 champion Heikki Kovalainen. In 2018, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button competed as part of Team Kunimitsu for the season after competing in the 2017 Suzuka 1000 km for the Mugen team as a one off appearance.
In the GT300 class, notable drivers include Nobuteru Taniguchi of Goodsmile Racing, who is also well known as a D1GP competitor, and Manabu Orido, a former D1GP judge currently driving for JLOC. Other well-known drivers in the category were the TV presenter and singer Hiromi Kozono and Masahiko Kondo, who was also a pop star, actor, and racer-turned-GT500 team owner. Another popular GT300 driver was Tetsuya Yamano, who runs his own driving school and took the GT300 class victory at Sepang for three consecutive years.
Overall, across all classes, 33 different drivers have won the drivers championship in Super GT. Japanese drivers has produced the most winning drivers with 24. For the nine non-Japanese drivers who had become champions, all but one of them won the drivers championship in the GT500 class, with Macau driver André Couto being the sole exception.
Italian driver Ronnie Quintarelli won the most drivers championship titles with four. Quintarelli also holds the record for the most drivers championship title won by a non-Japanese driver and the most drivers championship won in GT500 class with four. Tatsuya Kataoka and Nobuteru Taniguchi were tied for the record of most drivers championship won in GT300 class with three. Tetsuya Yamano was the first driver to win multiple championship as well as the sport's first two-time champion, all of them won consecutively. Three drivers, Toranosuke Takagi in 2005, Jenson Button in 2018, and Nirei Fukuzumi in 2019 have managed to win the championship in their first full-season attempt. As of the end of the 2019 season, Masataka Yanagida and Kazuya Oshima are the only drivers in the series history to have won the drivers championship title in both classes.
International live telecasts
Multiverse Partners, through Haro Sports & Entertainment, undertakes the international content syndication of Autobacs Super GT 2019 Series (outside of Japan and Thailand).
- The Race – International live streaming (except Japan) – free access.
- Astro – Malaysia live telecast on Astro SuperSport, Astro SuperSport HD and Astro GO App.
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