After five long months, Super Taikyu roars back into gear this weekend at Sugo, deep in the hills of Sendai, Japan.
I fell in love with Nihongo in 2012, right from the first visit. The rich culture, the gentle nature of the people, the delicious fresh food and of course all things motorsport are what makes Japan a place that I would now – and often do! – recommend to absolutely anyone.
I joined the PETRONAS Syntium Team in 2012 to take a 1-2 championship finish in The Land of the Rising Sun. Champions, for the fifth time on the trot.
In 2013, we aim for the same result, but in my eyes, the roles will be reversed. Finishing second to our team mates in 2012 means there is plenty of healthy inter-team rivalry and bragging rights at stake.
I didn’t complete the pre-season test a few weeks back alongside my PST team mates, but reports suggest we are in for a real challenge this season, with Porsche and Audi joining Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nissan. These cars are fast, with Pro drivers, home track knowledge and significant Super GT experience.
The PST SLS AMG GT3s are in good shape, reveling in some new setup adjustments trialed after a collective SLS test with HWA in Europe, where our Head Engineer picked up some tricks working alongside the likes of Bernd Schneider.
Despite not completing the test, I’m quietly confident. Sugo is where I felt my absolute strongest in 2012. We took an emphatic pole in #28 and led the race by nearly a minute before a suspension failure.
I’m also relatively fresh and ‘race fit’, thanks to the recent New Zealand Endurance Series, which we clean swept in the Fastway Racing Porsche 997 GT3 early in the year.
It won’t be a case of ‘same old, same old’, though. The circuits, rivals and challenges I became accustomed to have all changed.
For starters, we will touch down on new shores in South Korea – the home of Gangnam – at the new Autopia circuit which, believe it or not, is still having the finishing touches of its construction completed!
Alongside me in the #28 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG will once again be Japanese Super GT 300 Champion Tatsuya Kataoka, but joining us will be Fariqe Hairuman; my old friend who jumps across the garage from the 2012 championship-winning Car #1.
The race formats are also wide and varied for 2013, with 3 hour races at Sugo and Autopolis, a 5 hour at Motegi, 7 Hour at Fuji and single-driver sprints at Suzuka and Autopia (Korea).
And down the pit lane, as I’ve mentioned, five manufacturers – and many multi-car outfits – will battle for the GT3 and the outright crown, including Porsche, Audi, BMW, Nissan and our own Mercedes-Benz.
So as much as things change, they remain the same.
It’s time to board the NZ99 for Tokyo Narita and get this show on the road.
As a close friend of mine so often says, “Let’s see what we can make of it.”
Wish me luck!