Rapid Super GT Championship pairing Sean Walkinshaw and Shinichi Takagi head into the third round of the season at Autopolis in Japan next weekend, 20th/21st May, resolutely determined to make their first visit of 2017 to the GT300 class podium.
Fresh from a highly competitive outing in Fuji a week ago, where the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri team-mates displayed pace more than capable of achieving silverware, confidence is high heading into the third race of Walkinshaw’s maiden season in the prestigious endurance racing category.
Adapting seamlessly to the challenge of Super GT, which is widely regarded as one of the most high-profile championships of its kind on the globe, the 23-year-old from Chipping Norton has impressed thus far and is improving with every outing at the wheel of the ARTA-entered No.55 BMW M3.
During his series debut at Okayama in Japan a month ago, Walkinshaw raced to an excellent top five finish with Takagi and while an unfortunate pit-stop penalty last time out in Fuji did bring an end to realistic podium hopes, the competitiveness shown was a great fillip for the partnership.
The visit to Autopolis marks another new challenge for Walkinshaw, having never tested at the track previously, and the venue will also be demanding for another reason – situated 3,000 metres above sea level, it will be the highest altitude circuit the ARTA driver has ever competed at.
“It’s all an unknown for me ahead of next weekend, I haven’t tested at Autopolis so it’ll be straight into things in free practice and qualifying”, commented Walkinshaw, “The team has been there before and we’re quite strong everywhere, so I’m sure the car will be on point straight away. It is all going to be a big learning curve for me, though, having never driven there before.
“If we can get qualifying nailed, get in the top six, we definitely have a great chance of a podium. Our race pace is amazing, probably our strongest attribute, so I’m sure the podium is going to come at some point and hopefully we can redeem ourselves from Fuji. I’ve never raced at such a high altitude before and while it might test the cars and fitness, it’ll be the same for everyone. I can’t wait.”
Despite the unfortunate penalty in round two, which proved costly in terms of championship points, Walkinshaw and Takagi are still only just outside the top 10 in the driver standings ahead of the visit to Autopolis. Autobacs Racing Team Aguri, meanwhile, is 10th in the team championship.
Following practice and qualifying for round three at Autopolis next Saturday, 20th May, the 300km race itself will take place on Sunday, 21st May.
2017 Super GT – GT300 Driver Standings (after Rd2)
11th Sean Walkinshaw & Shinichi Takagi, 6pts
2017 Super GT – GT300 Team Standings (after Rd2)
10th Autobacs Racing Team Aguri, 10pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Autobacs Racing Team Aguri