Jono Lester has been released from Gulf Racing with Pacific, and appears to be out of the frame to return elsewhere in the Autobacs Super GT Series in 2018 – but in his press release from Wednesday, he is committed to a long-term career goal of racing in Super GT.
Lester impressed in his rookie year in 2017, helping to lead Gulf Racing Japan and Pacific Racing to their best-ever Super GT campaigns and scoring a podium finish in just his second career start.
“My start to 2018 has been a challenging one, with unexpected news over the Christmas break that Gulf Racing was having its budget cut for the upcoming SUPER GT season. This meant there was no longer the funding to employ me as its lead driver, and just like that my summer R&R was kicked back to motorsport overdrive in hopes of slotting in elsewhere for the 2018 season,” said Lester on Wednesday.
Admittedly, I wasn’t confident of my chances. Japan locks down its driver line ups early (they’re supremely organised in that regard) and sure enough this was the case when my inner circle and I started ringing around. As of this moment, I’m yet to confirm a full programme for the year, however I will be back in Asia as soon as next week for a bunch of testing that’s coming up over the next few weeks.”
“I’m thankful for the ongoing support of my local sponsors, including that of Gulf Oil New Zealand who have stuck by me through this unexpected turn of events. Rest assured that – just like so often before in my 15 years in this sport – I’ll leave no stone unturned in filing 2018 with meaningful competition and continuing my long-term goal of a career in Japan’s Super GT Series.”
Lester opened his 2017 season with a third-place finish at the Okayama International Circuit, and closed it strong with a fourth-place finish at Twin Ring Motegi. With 3 top-5 finishes and 6-top 10s, Lester and co-driver Kyosuke Mineo finished eighth in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship, the best result for any driver for Pacific Racing in their five-year Super GT tenure.
The Kiwi was nominated for the Shingo Tachi Memorial Award given to the most outstanding Super GT rookie, and for Most Outstanding International Driver as well.
Mineo later confirmed that he too will not be racing for Gulf Racing with Pacific in 2018:
The combination with you was a powerful and unforgettable year. 👍I also left the team, but let’s have a good year each other👍👍
— 峰尾恭輔 (@kyosuke_Mineo) January 25, 2018
Gulf Racing with Pacific are yet to announce their 2018 driver lineup, and are two weeks removed from racing in the 24 Hours of Dubai.
Lester was our first driver interview at Super GT World shortly after our 2016 launch, and a tremendous supporter of this site and the series – and on a personal note, we certainly hope he can be back in the paddock sooner rather than later.