Hirakawa fell agonisingly in need of scoring his second GT500 title final 12 months after operating out of gasoline close by of the chequered flag whereas main within the Fuji Speedway finale.
That race was considered one of 4 visits to the Toyota-owned observe as a part of a schedule radically overhauled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the GR Supra usually excelling at Fuji because of its excessive high pace however struggling in comparison with GT500 rival marques Honda and Nissan at Suzuka and Motegi.
This 12 months sees the return of Okayama, Sugo and Autopolis to the schedule after they had been briefly dropped for 2020, and Hirakawa thinks this implies Toyota has to begin performing higher on higher-downforce tracks to remain in with an opportunity of the title.
“I feel this 12 months could possibly be a bit robust for the Supra,” Hirakawa advised Motorsport.com. “As a result of final 12 months we had been at Fuji 4 occasions, however this 12 months now we have Okayama, Sugo, Autopolis – high-downforce circuits, which aren’t actually good for us.
“It’s good for Honda, possibly, so now we have to discover a method to be good right here [Okayama] as properly. Within the low season we had been looking for one thing, and we discovered a little bit bit however not a lot. I feel Spherical 1 will likely be essential [to prove we can be competitive].”
Kenta Yamashita, returning to SUPER GT full-time this 12 months for Rookie Racing after making three cameo outings for Toyota in 2020, supplied the same opinion to Hirakawa.
#14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra
Photograph by: Masahide Kamio
“I feel the Supra is just fast round Fuji, so different tracks are a bit troublesome,” Yamashita advised Motorsport.com. “As a result of there are solely two Fuji races this 12 months, it could possibly be tougher than final 12 months.”
Hirakawa can also be going through the potential of going into the primary spherical of the season at Okayama on April 11-12 with out his new common teammate Sacha Fenestraz, who’s at present unable to enter Japan resulting from journey restrictions.
GT300 common Sena Sakaguchi deputised for Fenestraz at Okayama, setting the third-fastest time of the check, and is about to hitch Hirakawa once more for the ultimate pre-season check at Fuji on the finish of this month.
“He did fairly a superb job,” stated Hirakawa of Sakaguchi. “When he did a long term on previous tyres he was struggling, as a result of in such chilly situations you need to be actually cautious otherwise you get a lot graining. He was making that state of affairs himself by turning too aggressively.
“However then he put the brand new tyre on and he was okay, I used to be a bit stunned. He simply must work on race efficiency, that’s the toughest factor.”
Sakaguchi made one begin within the GT500 ranks final 12 months for Crew SARD within the second race of the 12 months at Fuji, deputising for an absent Heikki Kovalainen.
Ryo Hirakawa, Sena Sakaguchi（#37 KeePer TOM’S GR Supra）
Photograph by: Masahide Kamio