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!
Pretty much all the major teams had their own booths selling merchandise such as Raybrig, Calsonic, ARTA, Real Racing, Good Smile Racing, and so on.
Toyota on hand with a new GR CH-R and GR Supra.
Lexus had the old au TOM’S RCF car on display. Peep the BRIDE head pad being used as a knee pad in the cabin.
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.
NSX GT500 Concept in the Honda booth.
Last season’s MOTUL Autech GT500 GT-R.
MUGEN even had a booth and was selling some goodies such as t-shirts, hats, the ever so popular foldable boxes, shift knobs, and licence plate bolts.
I wound back up at the Honda booth and decided to grab a couple more shots of the NSX.
A close up of the tail-end of the three-way external catalytic converter system that all the cars are required to run these days.
A quick look at the main straight and pits from the grandstands.
I eventually made my way down to the paddock area where you could see some of the behind the scenes workings of the race teams.
I’m not sure if I was supposed to be in this area but there were a bunch of Fits warming up for the Fit 10 Lap Challenge going on that day as well.
Some of the official track vehicles stowed off to the side. For those that don’t know, Twin Ring Motegi is owned by Honda, hence all the official Honda vehicles around.
Spotted some more Hondas in the parking lot.
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.
Shortly after I made it to the pit walk where fans got the chance to meet some of their favourite drivers, get autographs, and even take photos with them!
Apparently the pit walk tickets were “limited”, and judging by the amount of people that were there, apparently the limit was about six million tickets.
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.
Sumire Sawa from TEAM KUNIMITSU/RAYBRIG posing with some of the sticker sheets that they were handing out.
The pit walk was also right after the morning practice sessions so a lot of the cars were in the middle of getting checked over before qualifying.
Pit walk over, it was time to go explore some more.
I don’t know how but I ended up on the main straight itself…
Not sure what this is exactly (perhaps a Choro Q?) but TEAM MACH were using it to get around the venue.
There was a yakitori vendor nearby so I took a short break for some beef and pork belly and it was AMAZING. So juicy, so tender, so good!
After the pit walk I went back up to the main area to browse the vendors a bit more.
Eventually it was time for the first qualifying session which I decided to watch from the main grandstands.
From here you can get a good view of the main straight, turn 1, 13, and 14, and of course all the action going on in the pits.
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.
With the first qualifying sessions over, I decided to run back down to the paddock for the remaining two qualifying sessions.
There were a few F4 cars hanging around as there was also the FIA F4 race going on that same day.
Not sure why but the TEAM MACH MC86 was parked off to the side. Broke down perhaps?
Probably the coolest piece of luggage that I spotted sitting in the TSUCHIYA ENGINEERING pits!
In the paddock area you can go onto the roof of some of the back offices/stores and get a great view of the straight between turns 2-3 as well.
With the second GT300 qualifying session over, I went to wander the paddock a bit more and ran into Bibendum!
Michelin, Advan, Bridgestone, and Dunlop were all on hand to take care of tire changing duties for all the teams for the weekend as well.
Side note but the Gran Turismo Café is delicious! It would also appear that you require a paddock pass to eat here as the café is located at the very end of the paddock.
Shortly after it was time for the second GT500 qualifying session. The ARTA NSX actually completely died while driving right past me, hence the FRO (First Rescue Operation) vehicle seen here.
On my way out at the end of day one I happen to catch the D’station race queens performing on stage.
The morning of day two was filled with sunshine so there would appear to be no need for the intermediate and rain tires seen here.
Rina Hazuki 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!
A bare GT500 class carbon monocoque on display.
The race would last around a couple hours so I grabbed some okonomiyaki before the action started.
While I was busy exploring the back half of the track looking for my seats…
…I ended up walking around the old oval course where a lot of regular cars are parked since it’s not used anymore…
…and stumbled upon this collection of holy sweet mother of hhhhnnngggggghh!
Eventually it was time for warm-up which meant that the main event would be starting soon!
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!
The Wedsport ADVAN LC500 before the front wheels got completed caked in brake dust.
The McLaren Customer Racing Japan 720S captured pole position in GT300 and fiercely defended the lead for quite some time.
The previous version of the apr GT300 Prius’ (yes I said Prius’) were some of my absolute favourite cars to ever compete in Super GT!
Good Smile Racing with the best livery in the series!
Both of the apr Prius’ running in tandem.
The KONDO Racing GT-R slowly hunting down the 720S at the head of the pack.
Often referred to as the ugliest car on the grid, the Saitama Toyopet Green Brace Mark X is actually one of my favourites!
WAKO’s LC500 keeping it cool (but not too cool) as they were competing for the series championship.
PAFICIC Racing with GOOD SPEED Porsche GT3 followed by the unmistakable sound of the R&D SPORT BRZ.
I’m not sure what caused it exactly but the Calsonic GT-R would go on to suffer mechanical failure and be unable to finish the race.
Arnage Racing AMG GT3 which was running way at the back after going off on the first lap in turn one.
KONDO Racing GTR finally making pass!
You might see an overabundance of photos of this car as I can’t seem to get enough of it…
TEAM MUGEN and TEAM SARD cars about to pass one of the GAINER GT-R’s.
Raybrig NSX with another one of the coolest liveries in the series.
ZENT CERUMO chasing down the #23 NISMO GT-R.
SYNTIUM Apple Lotus which seems to be able to go on forever before having to make a pit stop.
HOPPY 86 MC with yet another amazing looking livery.
The ZENT Cerumo LC500 finally making its way past the NISMO GT-R!
As you can see here, the front wheels of the Wedsport ADVAN LC500 are no longer bright green…
Mirari Akari waving as she passes by.
When the track workers are waving all the flags at once that means one thing: the race is over!
The race was also streamed live at motorsport.tv and you can still re-watch it there if you’d like.
With the main event over, it was time for the awards ceremony which would be extra special since this was the final round of the season meaning that the series champions would also be crowned.
All the cars have to go through scrutineering again after the race but the podium finishers go through it first…
…while the rest of the field are lined up on the main straight for everyone to be able to see up-close.
The green just pops so well here.
I couldn’t help but notice that the GT500 GT-R’s have much more aggressive aero on the side compared to the LC500’s and NSX’s.
Without a doubt the best livery here!
All the podium finishers lined up post scrutineering.
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 Gan-san, Yusaku Shibata, and Sumire Sawa for being super cool and letting me take some photos with them, and of course, Rina Hazuki 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.
See more from my Japan trip here !