Heading into the last three races of the 2020 season, Honda’s highest placed crew in the championship is Real Racing duo Koudai Tsukakoshi and Bertrand Baguette, who took the first two race wins for the new front-engined NSX-GT.
The first of those came in the second round of the year at Fuji, while the second followed at Motegi, although the #17 car’s failure to score strongly elsewhere has left Tsukakoshi and Baguette third behind the #14 Cerumo Toyota and the #37 TOM’S Toyota.
Toyota dominated the season opener at Fuji in July with its new GR Supra, locking out the top five places, and with the weight handicaps no longer applying for next month’s season finale at the same track, Honda’s SUPER GT project leader Masahiro Saiki admitted that he’s concerned that history could repeat itself.
He believes outscoring the top Toyota crews in this weekend’s Suzuka round and at Motegi in two weeks time will be imperative for Honda’s title hopes.
“The final race of the season is at Fuji, and after racing there three times this year, we have realised we’re in a situation where Fuji is tough for us,” said Saiki.
“Furthermore, since the final race is also a non-handicap race, it is possible that the situation is the same as the opening race [when Toyota swept the top five].
“If we perform well at Suzuka and Motegi and arrive at Fuji in a higher championship position [than Toyota], I think there is a possibility [of winning the title]. We are still challengers.”
#38 ZENT GR Supra
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The #100 Kunimitsu Honda of Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino will start Sunday’s Suzuka race from eighth, one place ahead of the #17 machine of Tsukakoshi and Baguette.
“In tomorrow’s race, I think some cars starting from high up the order may fall back, and I’m sure the Bridgestone Toyotas will improve their position,” said Saiki.
“Suzuka is a relatively good track for the NSX-GT, so I hope that cars #17 and #100 can finish in a high position as well.”
The only podium position for the #100 Honda so far this year came in the August Suzuka race, where Yamamoto and Makino finished second behind the victorious Nissan GT-R of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.
Makino agreed with Saiki’s view that any hopes of lifting a second title in three years for Kunimitsu depends on entering the season finale with points in hand.
“I think Fuji is going to be a really difficult race, so this round and Motegi will be important,” Makino told Motorsport.com.
“Toyota is really strong at Fuji, so we have to get a lot of points before Fuji, at this round and Motegi. It will be an important two races.”
#100 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT: Naoki Yamamoto, Tadasuke Makino
Photo by: Masahide Kamio