Several squads in the lower of the two SUPER GT classes have taken advantage of the series’ relatively open pit stop regulations in recent years, gaining time in the pits by either changing only two tyres or no tyres at all.
Saitama Toyopet Green Brave delivered a debut win for the Toyota GR Supra GT300 car in last season’s opening round at Fuji Speedway after not changing any tyres during its mandatory pitstop, and did the same again en route to winning the finale at the same track.
SUPER GT organiser GTA initially moved to ban no-tyre pitstops at the second round at Fuji last year but then took a U-turn on that decision at the following race at Suzuka, seemingly handing back an advantage to lighter JAF GT300-spec cars that are easier on their tyres.
The ban will return for the start of the 2021 SUPER GT season at Okayama this weekend, as well as the Fuji season finale, but teams will be free to try different strategies in the interim.
Speaking after setting the pace in the final pre-season test of the year last month at Fuji, reigning GT300 champion de Oliveira, who drives a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 for Kondo Racing, called for a full-season ban on no-tyre change pitstops in the GT300 class.
“It’s not allowed [to change no tyres] for Round 1, but we didn’t race at Okayama last year so it would be tricky for teams to work out the strategy,” de Oliveira told Motorsport.com.
“Also the possibility of a safety car there is quite high, and once you go for a no-tyre change strategy you need there to be no safety car.
“I think it’s a good thing for the championship to have the rule, but I wish we would have it for every race instead of just the first round and the finale.”
The Brazilian also expects to see teams take advantage of the rule at Fuji, which will be a 500-kilometre race.
“There will be the chance to do two long stints and one short stint,” he said. “You can try to extend one of the long stints, possibly the final one, and not change tyres. That’s probably in the mind of many of the teams.”
De Oliveira and teammate Kiyoto Fujinami lifted the GT300 drivers’ title last year after beating the Saitama Toyopet entry of Hiroki Yoshida and Kohta Kawaai by nine points.
However, no driver pairing has ever taken successive GT300 titles in the championship’s history, while no team has taken successive drivers’ titles since Tsuchiya Engineering in 1998-99.
De Oliveira expects the competition in the secondary close to be even closer this year, thanks to a wider selection of tracks than 2020 when only three circuits were used in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.
“Basically, the way the season worked last year with only three different tracks benefitted a few teams, and it hurt other teams,” said the 39-year-old ex-Nissan GT500 driver.
“With more technical tracks and more narrow, bumpy tracks like Okayama and Sugo, this will bring a new element to the season and mean that more teams have chances.
“What makes this season more difficult is that our rivals know our strengths. They’ve already seen what we can do; what we will do is predictable.
“We’ve seen teams changing tyre suppliers, getting new cars, and some of the drivers have become more experienced. There are some cars like car #4 [Goodsmile Mercedes] and #61 [Subaru] that have strong driver combinations that are waiting for their time to come.
“It’s gonna be a real challenge to grab that title again.”