July 29, 2021

The state of play in the 2021 Super GT silly season

Nick Cassidy joining Formula E has left a major hole in Toyota’s six-car roster, one that will be extremely tough to fill. And while it appears the manufacturer is set to use the chance to conduct a reshuffle of its line-up, the exact details don’t appear to have yet been finalised.

The key player is Kenta Yamashita, who has been strongly rumoured to be making a full-time return to domestic competition following his late-season pair of cameo outings replacing Cassidy alongside Ryo Hirakawa in the #37 TOM’S GR Supra.

While simply slotting in Yamashita alongside Hirakawa permanently would appear to be the logical move, it’s never that straightforward – and the temptation for Toyota to reform the 2019 title-winning line-up of Yamashita and Kazuya Oshima at Rookie Racing (the banner under which Cerumo’s second car, the #14, is run) may prove too great to resist.

Race winners: #6 LeMans Lexus: Kazuya Oshima, Kenta Yamashita

Race winners: #6 LeMans Lexus: Kazuya Oshima, Kenta Yamashita

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

If that’s the case, Sho Tsuboi would be the one to make way. He has been mentioned as a possible Cassidy replacement at TOM’S, but there’s also a chance he could be kept within the Cerumo fold, which would mean a move across to the #38 car to replace Yuji Tachikawa.

At 45, Tachikawa – who also serves as the team director for the Cerumo squad – is by some distance the oldest driver in the GT500 field, and there were rumblings late last year that long-time sponsor ZENT was keen for a change to a line-up that has gone unaltered since 2015.

Putting Tsuboi alongside Hiroaki Ishiura, who seems set to continue in SUPER GT despite retiring from Super Formula, would be one way of achieving that.

So, what of TOM’S? All we can say with certainty for now is that Hirakawa and Sacha Fenestraz are both staying put, and while Yuhi Sekiguchi was rumoured to be out for a period of time, the latest information suggests he’s also set to remain – which potentially leaves just one seat to fill across the team’s two GR Supras.

If it’s not Tsuboi making the move from Cerumo, then the other leading candidate is Ritomo Miyata, who drove last year for Racing Project Bandoh. What’s less clear is whether Miyata would be a direct replacement for Cassidy in the #37, or whether Fenestraz would cross the floor to partner Hirakawa and allow Miyata to partner Sekiguchi in the #36 (as he did when he replaced Kazuki Nakajima for one race in 2018).

#36 au TOM’S GR Supra

#36 au TOM’S GR Supra

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

At Bandoh, Yuji Kunimoto is set to stay for another season, and if Miyata did get the nod to join TOM’S the likely replacement would be rookie Sena Sakaguchi. Meanwhile, SARD is set to retain Heikki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama for a third consecutive season. 

Oyu poised for Honda GT500 graudation

At Honda, major changes appear unlikely, with Team Kunimitsu, ARTA, Real Racing and Nakajima Racing all looking on course to maintain their current line-ups.

However, a potential newcomer is Toshiki Oyu, who has been tipped for a graduation to the GT500 ranks with Team Mugen after spending last year learning the ropes in GT300 with ARTA. This would mean either Hideki Mutoh or Ukyo Sasahara having to make way, although it’s currently unclear which driver would be for the chop.

Ex-IndyCar racer Mutoh’s future has been subject to speculation in the last couple of seasons, and at 38 he’s probably nearing the end of his top-line career, but equally an Oyu-Sasahara combination appears unlikely on the face of it given their lack of experience.

#16 Team Mugen Honda NSX-GT: Hideki Mutoh, Ukyo Sasahara

#16 Team Mugen Honda NSX-GT: Hideki Mutoh, Ukyo Sasahara

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Should Oyu make the jump up to the GT500 class as expected, it would leave a hole in ARTA’s GT300 line-up alongside veteran Shinichi Takagi, who is expected to return to competition next season following his recovery from injury.

It’s believed this seat was offered to Takagi’s temporary replacement Nobuharu Matsushita, but the Formula 2 exile is instead poised to switch camps and join Nissan in 2021.

As previously reported, Matsushita is likely to be one of two new Nissan GT500 drivers in 2021 along with GT300 champion Kiyoto Fujinami, with both men having taken part in a driver evaluation shootout at Fuji Speedway in the middle of last month.

Possible 2021 SUPER GT grid:

Manufacturer

Team

No.

Drivers

Nissan

NISMO

23

Italy Ronnie Quintarelli

Japan Tsugio Matsuda

Kondo Racing

24

Japan Mitsunori Takaboshi

Japan Daiki Sasaki

Japan Kiyoto Fujinami?

Team Impul

12

Japan Nobuharu Matsushita

Japan Kazuki Hiramine

NDDP/B-Max Racing

3

Japan Kohei Hirate

Japan Kiyoto Fujinami

Japan Katsumasa Chiyo?

Toyota

TOM’S

36/37

Japan Ryo Hirakawa (37)

France Sacha Fenestraz

Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi (36)

Japan Ritomo Miyata

Japan Sho Tsuboi? (37)

Racing Project Bandoh

19

Japan Yuji Kunimoto

Japan Sena Sakaguchi

Japan Ritomo Miyata?

SARD

39

Finland Heikki Kovalainen

Japan Yuichi Nakayama

Cerumo

38

Japan Hiroaki Ishiura

Japan Sho Tsuboi

Japan Yuji Tachikawa?

14

Japan Kazuya Oshima

Japan Kenta Yamashita

Japan Sho Tsuboi?

Honda

Team Kunimitsu

1

Japan Naoki Yamamoto

Japan Tadasuke Makino

ARTA

8

Japan Tomoki Nojiri

Japan Nirei Fukuzumi

Team Mugen

16

Japan Toshiki Oyu

Japan Hideki Mutoh

Japan Ukyo Sasahara?

Nakajima Racing

64

Japan Takuya Izawa

Japan Hiroki Otsu

Real Racing

17

Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi

Belgium Bertrand Baguette

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