Super GT was friggin’ wild and I honestly don’t really know how else to start off this post (that and I’m still jetlagged despite being back for just over two weeks now). This is one of the few race series that I follow so I was absolutely ecstatic to finally be able to attend in person. To be honest however this wasn’t on my original list of things to do in Japan, but after looking at the series calendar I realized that the final round of season was right around the same time that I was planning on visiting Japan, so I figured why the heck not.
Instead of doing the usual event coverage style of post that I would normally do, I wanted to make this post more of a personal blog style so to say to share my personal experience of this event with you all. The photo order may seem a bit scattered as well as I will just be posting them in the order that I took. Just as a heads up, this post is going to be a long one!
So before we actually get into Super GT, we actually have to get to Twin Ring Motegi which is an adventure all in itself. Some of you may know that I was originally planning to stay at Hotel Twin Ring for the event, but holy hell that was not to be.
Unfortunately you can’t actually just book a reservation whenever you want during a special event at the hotel; instead reservations are held off until a certain date, in which case everyone (including the race teams themselves) and go wild and book all they want. Also as it turns out, they have special “booking packages” for these events, meaning you can stay just for race day, or both qualifying plus race day, NOT both event days plus an extra day beforehand as I had wanted to.
So after all that and despite having four friends (one of which even lives in Japan) trying to help me book a room as soon as the reservations were open, I found out shortly afterwards that A) people in Japan are absolutely on top of anything that’s limited as the hotel fully booked almost INSTANTLY, and B) online bookings in English were never available for the race weekend in the first place. RIP.
Long story short, I ended up booking a hotel at Spa Resort LIVEMAX in Tochigi, rented a tiny (but incredibly tall) Nissan Dayz, and making the 45 minute drive each way on both qualifying and race days through rural Japan (which is absolutely gorgeous by the way). Also pro-tip, if you’re using the navigation built into your JDM rental car, SEARCH BY THE PHONE NUMBER (or if you have a data plan sim card or pocket wifi, just use Google Maps instead). I’ll get into more detail on this matter in a future post, but for now let’s get back to Super GT!
If I had to describe the vibe I got from Super GT, I would say that it was basically Disneyland except racecars. There are vendors everywhere, the venue itself has plenty to do (Twin Ring Motegi is essentially a full on racetrack resort that includes zip lining, go karting, obstacle courses, and much more), tons of delicious food vendors, and something that I was especially glad to see, lots of families with kids out to enjoy a weekend full of racing.
These are the types of displays that I wish we got to see more of here in Canada. Bridgestone was on hand with a new Supra for everyone to sit in as well as their full lineup of tires and wheels on display. They would even host a talk show with some of the drivers later on that afternoon!
One thing that I noticed that was really different was just how willing and open the manufactures were with showing off their cars. People were allowed to sit in the LFA here and a representative even opened the hood for someone who had asked to see it.
The amount of equipment required to operate a team for a single weekend is absolutely huge. Every team has to be operating at 100% every single time they compete and also be prepared for anything that happens at all times.
It was absolutely PACKED so when I say that fans had a CHANCE to meet some of their favourite drivers, I really do mean just a tiny small sliver of hope kind of chance. You basically had to be at the very front of the line and bolt it straight to your favourite driver immediately as soon as the pit walk was open.
No matter, it was still fun to be able to see some of the cars and race queens up close in their temporary homes for the weekend. I got to see Taniguchi Nobuteru for a bit too but unfortunately it was too crowded to snap a photo of him.
For those who aren’t familiar, Super GT uses a “knockout” qualifying format. This means that there are two qualifying sessions per class and only the top teams from each category (13 from GT300 and 8 from GT500) will advance to the second qualifying session to determine the front starting grid. The remainder of the teams will fill out the rest of the field in regular qualifying order.
Hazuki Rina of the Saitama Toyopet Green Brave team! For those who don’t know, all the mechanics on this team work at the Saitama Toyopet dealership. They work on just regular Toyota’s all day, and then go racing in Super GT and Super Taikyu on the weekends!
My seat was in Section G which is on the inside of turn 11. Never having been to Twin Ring Motegi before, I decided to choose this area to sit in for a couple reasons. First off, this is the end of the back downhill straight where the cars reach close to their top speeds followed by slamming on the brakes for the tight right hander; many many passes happen here, so there was bound to be action sooner or later. The second reason was because I figured I could get somewhat closer to the track for photos. I was trying to travel as light as possible for this entire trip so that meant even leaving the tiny teleconverter at home!
The next bunch of photos will just be from the race itself. Not a whole lot to say except that the actual sound and feel of these cars up close is truly something special. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself one day!
For those who don’t know, this season was Jenson Button’s final season in Super GT. He did however have an extremely successful time in his short period competing. He started by participating as a guest driver at the Suzuka Circuit round in 2017, followed by competing in the full season for 2018. He ended up winning that years season championship as a series rookie. That was Honda’s first Super GT championship since 2010 and also TEAM KUNIMITSU’s first championship in the series. Wild stuff and his presence will surely be missed.
A BIG congratulations to the LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’s team for winning the GT500 Series Championship (not to mention pulling off a hell of an exciting pass) as well as to the ARTA team for winning this year’s GT300 Series Championship! Lastly, special thanks to both Gan-san and Yusaku Shibata for being super cool and letting me take some photos with them, and of course, Hazuki Rina of the Saitama Toyopet Green Brave team for taking the time to come out and meet me despite her busy schedule. ありがとうございました!
And just like that, this amazing two day event, as well as the 2019 season, came to an end. It was non-stop action for me and I could only imagine what it’d be like to attend a full season. Being surrounded by so many people that are so passionate about racing (both the teams and the fans) was truly an amazing and an eye opening experience. If you are a motorsports fan I HIGHLY suggest that you make it out to an event if you ever get the chance. I honestly cannot wait to go back and may just have to make this a regular stop for future trips!
Click here to view the full photo set on Flickr.