Breaking down SUPER GT’s dramatic showdown: Why 2024 looks set to be Nissan’s Year!

The recent SUPER GT in-season GT500 test didn’t just offer the regular adrenaline fix for the fans. There was a unique twist this time around. The track buzzed with an electrifying mix of both current-generation machines and the highly-anticipated 2024 development cars. And while the actual races are still months away, there’s plenty we observed that hint at what the next season holds.

**Highlights from the Track**

Over two eventful days, a total of 10 cars, which includes seven of the current GT500 models and the new prototypes, showcased their prowess. With the set regulation of eight hours, the track time was neatly divided into three slots. This alteration was to also make space for a GTA-organised GT300 test.

But before diving deeper, let’s first review the lap times recorded over these two days.

The Motegi test session revealed some surprising results. On the whole, lap times were decidedly slow – even slower than the last year’s post-season carbon neutral test. Although heavy rainfall on Monday resulted in flooded garages, the sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday enjoyed dry track conditions. However, the scorching humidity wasn’t exactly ideal for record-breaking times. The rainfall from Monday rendered the track relatively ‘green’ for Tuesday morning’s session, with the bulk of the serious action taking place later that day and the next.

**The 2024 GT500 Machines: A Closer Look**

Among the 2024 cars, Nissan’s performance stood out. While one can argue that the #230 Z NISMO, piloted by Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda, recorded the fastest time among the development cars, there’s more to the story. A mere look at the team’s strategy says it all.

During the initial session, there was a neck-to-neck competition among the three 2024 models. However, as the second session rolled in, differences began to emerge. Nissan took the lead by recording 75 laps, surpassing both Honda’s 59 and Toyota’s 19. Moreover, Nissan’s Matsuda undertook two prolonged 20-lap runs, while Honda managed a 12-lap run just before the session closed. Toyota, unfortunately, couldn’t go beyond five consecutive laps.

By the end of the sessions, Nissan was ahead with 155 laps, Honda at 141, and Toyota trailing at 104. However, Quintarelli’s best performance of 1m38.709s in the Tuesday afternoon session was slightly slower than Mitsunori Takaboshi’s earlier record in the session. Yet, after considering each sector’s best times, Nissan remained dominant. Both Honda and Toyota trailed behind, with Honda outpacing Toyota only slightly.

Nissan continued its dominance in terms of speed as well. The #230 car clocked a top speed of 256.5km/h (159.4mph), whereas Honda and Toyota managed 254.7km/h (158.3mph) and 254.1km/h (157.9mph) respectively.

It’s essential to note that various factors may have influenced these results. For example, Nissan is using Michelin tyres, which won’t be available next season. The weather conditions during the test also aren’t a perfect reflection of what the actual race day might be like.

However, based on these insights, Nissan seems poised for a head start in 2024. While Honda’s lagging can be attributed to their new car concept, Toyota’s slow pace remains a mystery, especially since the 2023 GR Supra doesn’t seem vastly different from its predecessor.

**The 2023 Machines: A Brief Review**

In terms of the 2023 models, the Nakajima Racing Honda stole the spotlight. With a record of 1m37.774s, they not only topped their final session but also outpaced other cars during the entire test. On the long runs, the Impul Nissan and Team Kunimitsu Honda made significant impressions, with the NDDP Nissan and #36 TOM’S Toyota closely behind.

Unfortunately, the #16 ARTA Honda and Rookie Racing Toyota were missing from the tests. Their absence in the tests might influence their performance in the upcoming races, making it an intriguing aspect to keep an eye on.

**To Conclude**

As we gear up for the next season of SUPER GT, it’s evident that every team is pushing their limits. While initial indicators seem to favour Nissan, only time will tell who takes the trophy home!