The Super GT and Formula Nippon racing series' in Japan are well renowned and competitive racing championships continuing the strong motorsport tradition in Japan. In this arena Öhlins Japanese distributor Carozzeria is very active, supplying over 60 % of the field with Öhlins dampers...
The series uses some iconic circuits, many of them known the world over such as Suzuka, Fuji, Autopolis, Twin Ring Motegi, Sugo and the Inje Circuit in South Korea. There is a mix of young up and coming drivers, Japanese legends such as ex F1 driver Takashi Kobayashi and some fast, focused Europeans including Andre Lotterer.
The premier class of single-seater racing in Japan, better known as Formula Nippon, has its roots tracing back to 1973, directly evolving from not only the Japanese Formula 2000 racing series but the Japanese Formula Two and Japanese Formula 3000 Championships.
While the Championship follows its European counterparts closely in terms of technical regulations, they do follow some important exceptions. The machine used is the 'FN09', a specially developed vehicle built to the exact regulations of the Championship by American company Swift Engineering. Like all formula cars, the main monocoque shell is made of a carbon composite, with the engine mounted in the rear of the chassis using a stressed mount system. The basic construction of these race cars is comparable with the safety and performance of Formula 1 cars.
The engines are supplied by two manufacturers – Honda and Toyota, whilst Öhlins equip the majority of the field, with 60% of cars using the brand and 50 % of the cars using the Öhlins TTR damper.
The championship attracts not only the top Japanese drivers but also international drivers and several F1 drivers including Ralf Schumacher, Pedro de la Rosa, Eddie Irvine and Ralph Firman to name just a few raced in the category prior to moving to Formula 1. Audi's Le Mans stars Benoît Tréluyer, Loic Duval and Andre Lotterer also race in the category in addition to their Endurance duties with Audi Sport.
The Super GT series, formally known as the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC), is important in Japan, a country enthralled with this term especially given the ultra popular game out there 'Gran Turismo'!
The Championship offers a unique difference to the majority of the racing series in the country by the fact it is directly authorized by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) just like Super Formula. Unlike the single seater category, Endurance GT racing has longer races and driver changes. The races are between two and six hours long, one event of the year is the six hour race at Suzuka.
There are two separate categories in the race, the GT500 and GT300 classes. In the bigger 500 class, three manufacturers dominate proceedings – Honda, Nissan and Toyota/Lexus have won the vast majority of the Championships to date. Lately there's been increased talks between Super GT and DTM to share technical regulations and this has led to Super GT presenting a new set of technical regulations for 2014. Honda, Lexus and Nissan showed their new cars for 2014 earlier this year and they share a lot more similarities with the DTM regulations. The similarities between the two championships is set to increase, and will be joined by the American Grand Am platform with the goal of the three series to share technical regulations by 2017.
The smaller 300 class, in true Endurance GT fashion, participates in the same races as the GT500 class but runs in a separate championship. The GT300 category typically consists of privateer teams and in recent years it has moved to include the FIA GT3 regulations. Something that has increased the number of participants and several European makes such as the GT3 cars from Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW has joined the Japanese manufacturers.Thanks to the work of Carozzeria Öhlins is well represented in the Japanese category as well with over 50 % of the cars in the GT500 category using Öhlins products.