Japan’s immensely popular Super GT Championship will have a new face among its ranks in 2017 after the confirmation today, Saturday, 4th March, British racer Sean Walkinshaw will contest the new season with multiple championship winning squad Autobacs Racing Team Aguri.
Chipping Norton 23-year-old Walkinshaw, who raced as part of the Nissan GT Academy last year in the Blancpain Endurance Cup and Blancpain Sprint Cup, makes the step-up into the world-renowned Super GT Championship piloting an ARTA BMW M6 in the GT300 Championship.
Featuring some of the globe’s most impressive grand touring cars, Super GT – which is authorised by the FIA – is widely regarded throughout world motorsport as one of the most professional and high profile championships of its kind.
Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA), founded and headed by former F1 driver and Super Aguri F1 team owner Aguri Suzuki, competes in both the GT500 and GT300 categories and is a former title winner of both. Claiming the GT300 driver crown in 2002, the team won the driver and team crowns in GT500 in 2007.
Last year, ARTA was fifth in the GT300 Championship with drivers Shinichi Takagi and Takashi Kobayashi who claimed one victory, two pole positions and three podium finishes. Walkinshaw will be partnered in his maiden Super GT season by Takagi who is one of the most experienced and successful drivers in the history of the series – second on the all-time winners list with 17 victories.
“I’m obviously very excited to start this new chapter in my career”, said Walkinshaw, looking ahead to, by far, his most high-profile season yet, “It’s going to be a massive challenge driving a new type of GT3 car, and driving on tracks I don’t know, but with the fantastic support I’ve been getting from ARTA I’m sure I’m going to be able to adapt very quickly.
“I’m certain we will have a very strong and successful season together and I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the car during the first official test in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be fantastic partnering Shinichi too, he’s a hugely successful driver in Super GT and I’ll be able to learn a huge amount from him.”
Numerous drivers climbing the ladder towards Formula One, and those who have already experienced life in F1, have competed in Super GT with past competitors including the likes of Ralf Schumacher, Pedro de la Rosa, Ukyo Katayama and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Reigning GT500 Champion Heikki Kovalainen, who partnered Kohei Hirate to title success in 2016 in Super GT, competed in Formula One between 2007 and 2013 and became a Grand Prix winner with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2008.
Walkinshaw’s first race meeting in Super GT will come on 8th/9th April at Okayama in Japan with the series then visiting Fuji, Autopolis near Kamitsue and Sugo. Returning to Fuji for the start of the second half of the campaign in early August, Super GT then travels to Suzuka, Chang in Thailand and will then return to Japan for the season finale on 11th/12th November at Motegi.
Source. Marc Orme