Why Honda is facing a 2023 SUPER GT driver conundrum

Why Honda is facing a 2023 SUPER GT driver conundrum

A handful of weeks ago, this author tried to rank the major five GT500 line-ups

A handful of weeks ago, this author tried to rank the major five GT500 line-ups in Tremendous GT this calendar year. As it so happened, the prime three have been all Honda teams.

That is partly simply because Honda has 3 sturdy ‘A’ motorists in its 3 Bridgestone cars and trucks in the kind of Naoki Yamamoto, Tomoki Nojiri and Koudai Tsukakoshi, with every paired by a fast young driver with practical experience of racing in Europe. And there’s not a ton incorrect with the marque’s two other line-ups either.

But potentially you can have two substantially of a fantastic issue, for the reason that Honda faces some possibly difficult driver selections following yr. As properly as its 10 GT500 incumbents, it has a range of young drivers to opt for from – not only all those racing in Japan, but also in Europe.

To start with, let us assessment the younger drivers that Honda has on its guides. In Japan, there’s Ren Sato, who drove in GT300 previous year but produced the headlines for all the mistaken motives as he took out the Kunimitsu NSX-GT of Yamamoto in the Fuji Speedway finale, effectively denying Honda the title. Even with that mishap, Sato remains on the payroll, and is set for his to start with Super Components marketing campaign with Team Goh this year.

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Then there are Iori Kimura and Kakunoshin Ota, who have both of those been handed dual Super Formula Lights and Tremendous GT GT300 programmes for 2022. Not like Sato, they lack any European working experience, but Russian-Japanese Kimura in certain was a 4-time race winner in Japanese Method 4 and has been handed the keys to the #55 ARTA NSX GT3 that Sato raced previous calendar year, suggesting he is rated really by the Honda major brass.


Picture by: Masahide Kamio

Moving across to Europe, FIA F3 race winner Ayumu Iwasa is moving up to F2 with DAMS – and when he has aid from Crimson Bull, the costs are significant and the competitors with the power consume giant’s other drivers is likely to be intense. If he doesn’t make a massive effect, then he could perfectly be heading back to Japan and needing a travel on the domestic scene.

The remaining members of the Honda scheme are Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura, who won previous year’s Suzuka SRS scholarship and this year will abide by in the footsteps of Sato and Iwasa by racing in French F4. Background indicates 1 will get the opportunity to step up to FIA F3 and the other will be heading back to Japan for ‘23, while not in a GT500 vehicle.

In any case, even with no Arao and Nomura, which is continue to 14 motorists vying for 10 seats – a veritable embarrassment of riches. And the now-renamed Honda Racing Faculty will maintain churning out future candidates for GT500 and Tremendous System drives for some time to come much too.

Of training course, when it will come to Honda’s 2023 line-up conclusions, a lot will count on how its candidates complete on-observe this calendar year. But, of the manufacturer’s 10 GT500 drivers this year, some begin in a better situation than other folks.

Yamamoto, Nojiri and Tsukakoshi all search to be nearly unimpeachable. Equally, Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi are patently not heading wherever, and it would be a shock to see Nobuharu Matsushita tumble out of favour so before long soon after he was poached from Nissan.

Nobuharu Matsushita

Nobuharu Matsushita

Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan

That leaves the 4 Dunlop workforce motorists: Takuya Izawa, Hiroki Otsu, Ukyo Sasahara and Toshiki Oyu. Based mostly on age on your own, Izawa would have to be regarded as the most vulnerable. At 37, he’s however a lot more than a ten years more youthful than the oldest driver in GT500, Toyota mainstay Yuji Tachikawa, and is rarely past it. But, he has by now been ‘demoted’ from ARTA to Nakajima Racing and is unquestionably on the ‘downslope’ of his career.

That said, Izawa is remarkably rated by Dunlop and has been credited for serving to the tyre maker enhance its performances in the previous two seasons, and if he was to be stood down then it is probably an similarly expert campaigner would be wanted to take his spot.

Tsukakoshi fits the profile finest, but if he was to be moved about to Dunlop, somebody would have to take his area in the Bridgestone camp. The most most likely applicant in this regard would be Oyu, who impressed in his initial time of GT500 competitors previous 12 months with Crew Mugen. How he fares in Super Method as nicely as Tremendous GT will likely have a bearing on whether or not the call-up will come as early as 2023, or a tiny later on on.

Moreover Izawa, the upcoming-most susceptible is in all probability Ukyo Sasahara, who, though worthy of his recent travel on benefit, only received his GT500 seat when Matsushita turned down the chance to generate for Workforce Mugen in 2020. The truth he has not obtained a Tremendous System drive also indicates that he’s a area driving fellow third-calendar year driver Hiroki Otsu in the Honda pecking order.

Hiroki Otsu, Ukyo Sasahara

Hiroki Otsu, Ukyo Sasahara

Image by: Masahide Kamio

The two motorists who seem to have the ideal chance to oust just one of the incumbents are Iwasa, if he loses his spot in F2, and Sato, if he does nicely in Tremendous Formulation. But if neither of those points take place, you wouldn’t rule out the latest 10 all being on.

As for Kimura and Ota, Honda has form when it comes to marketing its children from GT300 to GT500, as Fukuzumi, Otsu and Oyu can all attest. But presented neither of them have had a probability to go to Europe so significantly, we have to conclude that only an completely sensational performance in the decreased category would be enough to pressure their way into the image.

Then there is a different wild card – a selected Yuki Tsunoda, whose area in the AlphaTauri F1 crew for 2023 and outside of remains extremely a lot up in the air.

The most successful solution of the Honda training system in new decades, it’s difficult to consider that if Tsunoda was to drop his seat in F1 that the Sakura marque wouldn’t aid him land on his feet someplace. That could mean IndyCar, wherever Honda has a strong presence, but it could similarly necessarily mean a double Tremendous GT/Tremendous Components programme.

That would leave Honda in an uncomfortable place, as it would no doubt want Tsunoda in a competitive (study Bridgestone-shod) auto. It may perhaps suggest Tsukakoshi giving up his area at True Racing and Izawa remaining shuffled apart to make area for his old Components Nippon teammate at Nakajima Racing, as properly as Oyu getting to wait an additional yr to shift up.


Similarly, that would raise the likelihood of some of the lesser customers of the Honda junior secure, these types of as Kimura, Ota and Shun Koide, who was evaluated but eventually passed about for a Tremendous Method Lights marketing campaign, dropping off the scheme totally.

They would join some equally well-experienced Honda rejects of latest seasons, which include Sena Sakaguchi (now entirely embedded at Toyota), Atsushi Miyake (racing in Tremendous Components with Team Goh this year) and Teppei Natori.

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It is unavoidable that when Honda has these types of a properly-performing escalator from entry degree (SRS) to the higher echelons of Japan’s domestic scene, with alternatives to race in Europe thrown in for great evaluate, it will bring in lots of talent. And there will not be house to accommodate absolutely everyone even in the finest of a long time.

But the truth that Honda has now assembled a notably sturdy main of drivers in Super GT with couple of clear candidates to fall in favour of contemporary expertise, merged with its surfeit of gifted kids, is likely going to give it some rough possibilities to make in ‘23 and beyond.