Final yr, Honda gained 4 instances out of a attainable eight and took pole 5 instances, with Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino sealing the title for Workforce Kunimitsu in a dramatic season finale at Fuji Speedway.
That was regardless of the marque enjoying down expectations forward of the marketing campaign after changing its conventional mid-engined NSX-GT right into a front-engine, rear-wheel drive automobile to satisfy the brand new 2020 SUPER GT rules.
A improvement freeze has been imposed this yr within the prime GT500 class the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist comprise prices, that means this yr’s automobiles are largely the identical as final yr’s.
Honda’s head of automobile improvement Tomohiro Onishi nonetheless believes that Toyota has nonetheless made a step ahead, based mostly on the proof of pre-season testing.
“We’d wish to make Okayama the NSX-GT’s forte and rating a number of factors, however in the event you take a look at the outcomes [from testing], there’s virtually no distinction with our rivals, particularly Toyota,” Onishi stated. “It seems to be like it will likely be a detailed battle.
“At Fuji final yr we have been in a position to win because of the burden handicap [in Round 2]. However trying on the joint check, Toyota appears even quicker. By way of one-lap pace and prime pace, even in lengthy runs, they’ve improved barely. So it might be a harder battle than final yr.”
#36 au TOM’S GR Supra, #39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Honda challenge chief Masahiro Saiki added that he believes that the Toyota was the superior machine final yr no matter Honda’s profitable report.
“Trying again, I feel the GR Supra was the strongest and quickest automobile,” he stated. “It was our first yr with the FR automobile, so we began the season as ‘challenger’ in relation to our two rival producers.
“5 pole positions and 4 wins could seem like a dominant report, however in the event you take success ballast under consideration, I feel we misplaced virtually each spherical.
“This yr, races are deliberate in Okayama, Autopolis and Sugo, the place we couldn’t race final yr. To make sure we will deal with these tracks, throughout the low season we tried numerous set-ups and devoted ourselves to checking [fully] how we will use this FR automobile.”
Regardless of the event freeze, Saiki stated Honda has nonetheless been in a position to scale back the burden of the engine to help with the set-up, whereas bettering the consumption and exhaust techniques.
He stated additional enhancements to effectivity may very well be launched later within the yr for the second engine of the allotted two items per season that GT500 groups are restricted to utilizing.
“The engine just isn’t an enormous step up, however it’s barely greater by way of energy,” Saiki revealed. “The combustion effectivity has additionally gone up in consequence.
“We’ve got discovered a number of strategies to extend that [combustion efficiency] additional, however we’ve got to stability this towards reliability. If the reliability could be confirmed, we will incorporate these within the second engine.”
Saiki concluded by saying: “After all, the purpose is to defend the title. So far as I do know, Honda has by no means gained the title two years in a row. Subsequently, we’ll do our greatest to intention for consecutive titles.”
Motorsport.television will present your entire 2021 SUPER GT season dwell, beginning with this weekend’s Okayama opener. Accessible worldwide besides Japan. Click on right here for extra info.
#1 STANLEY NSX-GT
Picture by: Masahide Kamio