Sakaguchi, who usually races in the GT300 class for the K-Tunes Racing Lexus outfit, will make his GT500 debut in SARD’s #39 GR Supra alongside team regular Yuichi Nakayama.
He takes the place of reigning SUPER GT champion Kenta Yamashita, who was drafted in for last month’s pre-season test at Fuji and the opening round of the series, with ex-Formula 1 racer Kovalainen still unable to make the trip from his native Finland to Japan.
Yamashita was unavailable for the second round as he prepares to travel to Spa for the resumption of his FIA World Endurance Championship campaign with High Class Racing, and likewise won’t be on call for the following round at Suzuka.
Sakaguchi, 21, made his SUPER GT debut last year with in the K-Tunes Lexus RC F GT3, finishing second in the points alongside veteran Morio Nitta, and the pair had been set to continue for a second full season together this year.
#96 K-tunes Racing RC F GT3
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Following Sakaguchi’s call-up to SARD, Nitta will be joined in the K-Tunes Lexus by another experienced driver, Shigekazu Wakisaka.
The younger brother of three-time GT500 champion Juichi – incidentally now team director at SARD – was replaced in the Saitama Toyopet Green Brave line-up this year by Kohta Kawaai, who delivered the team its first win in the Fuji opener alongside Hiroki Yoshida.