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Why Honda and Nissan’s SUPER GT driver ‘swap’ is a retract-retract

How Baguette and Matsushita fare with their respective new groups, Impul and Real Racing, is evident to be no doubt one of the most greatest talking aspects when the brand new SUPER GT campaign will get underway in Okayama in correct over two months’ time. Such bid swaps between producers are relatively rare in the…

Why Honda and Nissan’s SUPER GT driver ‘swap’ is a retract-retract

How Baguette and Matsushita fare with their respective new groups, Impul and Real Racing, is evident to be no doubt one of the most greatest talking aspects when the brand new SUPER GT campaign will get underway in Okayama in correct over two months’ time.

Such bid swaps between producers are relatively rare in the GT500 ranks, given how Eastern drivers have a tendency to stay staunch to 1 producer for most, or in some cases all, of their careers. But seeing how smartly this one appears to swimsuit both events, it is nearly a shock that they don’t occur extra on the whole.

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Let’s open with Matsushita, who has approach ‘house’ to Honda and Real Racing – the crew with which he received the 2014 All-Japan Formula 3 title, let’s no longer omit – after spending his rookie SUPER GT season riding for Nissan and Impul.

Serious about that correct one twelve months in the past, Honda used to be no longer ready to enable Matsushita to make use of no doubt one of its engines to plod in the outlet spherical of Super Formula with B-Max Racing, it’s rather the turnaround. 

Whatever lingering in heart-broken health-feeling there could per chance also neutral had been towards Matsushita amongst the Honda hierarchy stemming from him turning down the likelihood to turn out to be a full Honda manufacturing unit driver in 2020 with seats in SUPER GT (at Mugen) and Super Formula (at Drago Corse) has been seemingly overcome by a bunch of stunning performances in both championships final twelve months. 

With starring drives at Sugo and the second Motegi plod in SUPER GT, Matsushita used to be arguably basically the most impressive driver on Nissan’s roster final twelve months. Combine that with his lengthy-standing links to Honda and it’s arguably fully pure that the Sakura marque would would in point of fact like to bring him benefit into the fold smartly, and moreover express its rival a key asset. 

Matsushita moreover formed an stunning combination with Real Racing engineer Yasuhiro Tasuka at B-Max Racing in Super Formula final twelve months, culminating in pole location for the Suzuka finale. It used to be spherical this time that Honda is known to enjoy made its provide. 

Given Matsushita’s pre-sleek links with Tasuka, and the sleek success of the two other Bridgestone Honda groups, Team Kunimitsu and ARTA, it made sense for him to be provided a drive at Real Racing. And Tsukakoshi – no doubt one of Honda’s sleek pattern drivers and a member of the Real staunch since 2009 – wasn’t realistically ever at threat of go. 

That left correct one driver left that Matsushita could per chance also change within the Honda/Bridgestone staunch. Serious about Baguette’s efficiency over the final three seasons, he will be forgiven for feeling tough performed by, but he used to be merely the recurring one out as soon as Honda decided it wished to bring benefit Matsushita.

On the surface, a transfer to Nissan and Impul could per chance also neutral seem like a backwards step for Baguette, who along with his teammate Tsukakoshi has received three races in the previous two years and has fought for the championship in both of these seasons. But there are several reasons to be optimistic. 

Within the starting build, Impul is a crew well-known extra venerable to working with international drivers than Real, where Baguette used to be the most fundamental ever non-Eastern driver and if truth be told well-known the ‘B’ driver of the squad.

The Belgian will be paired with a teammate who speaks shut to-fluent English in the invent of Kazuki Hiramine, and like Matsushita he is reunited with an engineer he knows smartly, as Toshiomi Oeki ran him benefit in 2016 in Super Formula. The presence of the now-retired Kazuki Hoshino (son of legendary crew proprietor Kazuyoshi) in the crew will fully abet Baguette gain his feet well-known extra rapid.

Secondly, the brand new ‘Z’ that Nissan will campaign this twelve months promises to be a step forward from the weak GT-R, which used to be potent at some circuits but struggled at others. By joining in the most fundamental twelve months of this new generation, Baguette has the likelihood to abet info pattern of the brand new vehicle, in particular as fragment of the fully Nissan crew that makes use of Bridgestone tyres. 

Thirdly, there’s the likelihood for Baguette to be conception about for a future promotion to the works NISMO crew. Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda are both getting towards the tip of their careers, and if NISMO wants to carry a world presence in its #23 vehicle as soon as Quintarelli steps down, Baguette would be a factual fit as a alternative. 

This form of transfer would carry echoes of 1 other French-speaker, Benoit Treluyer, stepping as a lot as partner Satoshi Motoyama at NISMO in 2008 after several seasons of proving himself at Impul. 

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Whereas Baguette continuously maintained that he labored smartly with Tsukakoshi owing to their the same riding kinds and build-up preferences, it wasn’t continuously undeniable sailing at Real Racing for the 35-twelve months-weak, and he grew to turn out to be an increasing selection of additional pissed off with the crew’s approach calls final twelve months. 

Switching to Impul and Nissan affords him a peculiar open, arguably with less expectations on his shoulders, to boot to the likelihood to turn out to be a lengthy-term fixture in the NISMO camp.

For Matsushita, besides the evident aggressive benefits of the transfer, there could be one other most fundamental positive: as a full Honda manufacturing unit driver, he no longer wants to jam together a budget as he did final twelve months to plod in Super Formula, which he has admitted in the previous is his most fundamental precedence. 

There’s moreover extra likelihood of him having the skill to plod in one other country in the rupture as fragment of the Honda staunch than there ever used to be for Nissan, which had already ruled out Matsushita for a drive in its fully other most fundamental motorsport programme, Formula E. 

Assessing other sleek producer moves

Kohei Hirate, Toyota to Nissan (2019)

Toyota’s inexplicable resolution to demote Hirate to a GT300 lunge in 2018 opened the door for Nissan to swoop in and register the two-time champion for 2019, pairing him with Frederic Makowiecki at NDDP Racing in 2019. That combination proved a success, while Hirate and Katsumasa Chiyo moreover impressed final twelve months, albeit with Hirate being shuffled over to Kondo Racing for the 2022 season.

James Rossiter, Toyota to Nissan (2019)

Rossiter used to be one other member of Nissan’s 2019 consumption, changing fellow Briton Jann Mardenborough at Impul. But despite a promising open for Rossiter and teammate Sasaki the season grew to turn out to be out to be a most fundamental disappointment. Rossiter blamed the underperformance on a damaged chassis, but used to be nonetheless given the boot in 2020 to make ability for promising newcomer Kazuki Hiramine.

Yuhi Sekiguchi, Nissan to Toyota (2014)

Sekiguchi used to be employed by Nissan in 2012 following his title success in All-Japan Formula 3 in 2011, but their partnership ended following a heart-broken title defence for MOLA in 2013 (albeit in a twelve months the whole GT-R crews struggled). Nissan’s loss used to be Toyota’s get hang of as Sekiguchi slotted in on the Bandoh squad in 2014, graduating to TOM’S in 2018 and scoring final twelve months’s title alongside young gun Sho Tsuboi.

Loic Duval, Honda to Toyota (2012)

Only a twelve months on from serving to Honda to championship glory with the entrance-engined HSV-010 GT, Duval used to be picked up by Toyota to interchange Andre Lotterer, who vacated his seat in the TOM’S Lexus to focal point on his new FIA World Endurance Championship obligations for Audi. However the alliance lasted correct a twelve months as Duval moreover grew to turn out to be a full-time member of the Audi WEC staunch in 2013.


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