The state of play in the 2021 Super GT silly season

Jamie Klein
·5-min read

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<span class="copyright">Masahide Kamio</span>
Race winners: #6 LeMans Lexus: Kazuya Oshima, Kenta YamashitaMasahide Kamio

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<span class="copyright">Masahide Kamio</span>
#36 au TOM’S GR SupraMasahide Kamio

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 <span class="copyright">Masahide Kamio</span>
#16 Team Mugen Honda NSX-GT: Hideki Mutoh, Ukyo Sasahara Masahide Kamio

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:

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