Sean Walkinshaw’s endurance racing career enters an exciting new phase this coming weekend, 8th/9th April, when the 2017 Super GT Championship gets underway during round one of the season at Okayama in Japan.
Embarking on his first campaign in the prestigious Far Eastern category, one of the most high profile championships in global motorsport, the 23-year-old from Chipping Norton heads to Okayama off the back of a strong, and highly productive, pre-season with Autobacs Racing Team Aguri.
Partnering vastly experienced Super GT competitor Shinichi Takagi, the duo sharing driving duties in a BMW M6 GT3 race car in the GT300 category, Walkinshaw is determined to make a competitive start to his maiden season outside Europe.
Along with a different car to adjust to, the British racer having competed with Nissan power over the past couple of years in the Blancpain GT Series, Walkinshaw also has to learn a whole series of different circuits in Japan and Thailand and acclimatise to a variety of Bridgestone tyre compounds.
Pre-season testing with the No.55 BMW has been very positive for the ARTA squad and while the first round of Super GT, the Okayama 300km, will undoubtedly be a big challenge for Walkinshaw, it’s one he is more than ready for.
“Everything has gone pretty well so far”, he commented, “It’s been quite a big learning curve, especially the first test as I’d never been to the track before and it was an ‘old school’ circuit. The car is completely new to me, quite different from the Nissan I raced the last couple of years, and there are also lots of different compounds of tyres to learn about – it’s a big change.
“The team is fantastic, as is my team-mate Shinichi, and we’ve all been working really well together. It’s a very similar approach to racing in Europe really, although in Super GT we work a lot closer with the tyre engineers – each team has its own tyre engineer. Everything is very professional and the team is one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”
Super GT has two categories, GT500 and GT300, and in the latter there are no fewer than 26 cars entered for the new season. Three different tyre manufacturers, Bridgestone, Yokohama and Dunlop, are represented along with more than a dozen different automotive manufacturers.
“I’ve got no real goals for the first round, other than to be competitive and do the best we possibly can”, added Walkinshaw, “Finishing on the podium would be great, but there’s still a lot to learn. I just want to produce a strong performance on my debut.”
Round one of the Super GT season at Okayama, formerly known as TI Circuit Aida when it hosted the Pacific Formula One Grand Prix in the mid-1990s, will be contested on Sunday, 9th April.
Source. Marc Orme