"2018 JAF Motorsport Award-giving ceremony" hosted by Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), the governing body of Japanese motorsports, was held at a hotel in Tokyo on November 30th. Drivers and team representatives who achieved outstanding performance this season in SUPER GT as well as other domestic motorsports were invited and honored for their accomplishment at the ceremony.
Prior to the series awards presentation, JAF paid a special tribute to people/group who achieved a remarkable milestone in the field of motorsport this year. JAF President Takayoshi Yashiro (far left in the photo) presented awards to SUPER GT GT500 driver Kazuki Nakajima (second from left) for winning the Le Mans 24 Hour race and Tetsuya Yamano (third from left), who holds a record of three-consecutive GT300 class title, for marking 100th win in the All Japan Gymkhana.
For the SUPER GT awards, the drivers of the top three teams in the driver ranking, including the GT500 and GT300 class champions, and the team representatives from the champion teams were called onto the stage. Champion drivers received JAF Champion Cup, shaped in V, from victory, and a steering wheel, and the second- and third-place drivers were giving with a plaque.
Award-giving was also carried out for the FIA-F4 Championship to honor top five drivers in the ranking, excluding driver champion Yuki Tsunoda (No.5 HFDP/SRS/Kochira Racing) who was absent, and Honda Formula Dream Project, which accomplished back-to-back title this year.
JAF Award ceremony
GT500 Class Champion Team Champion No.100 TEAM KUNIMITSU (General Manager Kunimitsu Takahashi) Driver Champion Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button (No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT)
Naoki Yamamoto dominated the two premier categories of Japan by also winning the championship in SUPER FORMULA.
GT500 Class 1st - 3rd place of Driver ranking & Team Champion
Team Champion No.100 TEAM KUNIMITSU (General Manager Kunimitsu Takahashi)
1st: Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button (No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT)
2nd: Ryo Hirakawa / Nick Cassidy (No.1 KeePer TOM'S LC500)
3rd: Tomoki Nojiri / Takuya Izawa (No.8 ARTA NSX-GT)
GT300 Class Champion
Team Champion No.65 K2 R&D LEON RACING (Team Director Tadashi Mizota)
Driver Champion Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou (No.65 LEON CVSTOS AMG)
GT300 Class 1st - 3rd place of Driver ranking & Team Champion
Team Champion No.65 K2 R&D LEON RACING (Team Director Tadashi Mizota)
1st: Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou (No.65 LEON CVSTOS AMG)
2nd: Shinichi Takagi / Sean Walkinshaw (No.55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3)
3rd: Koki Saga / Kohei Hirate (No.31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT)
*Walkinshaw and Saga were absent.
FIA-F4 Championship 1st - 4th place of Driver ranking & Team Champion
Team Champion : Honda Formula Dream Project
1st: Yuki Tsunoda (No.5 HFDP / SRS / Kochira Racing)
2nd: Teppei Natori (No.5 HFDP / SRS / Kochira Racing)
3rd: Kazuto Kotaka (No.1 FTRS Scholarship F4)
4th: Kohta Kawaai (No.63 DENSO Le Beausset F4)
5th: Togo Suganami (No.81 OTG DL F110)
6th: Shinji Sawada (No.16 Media DoADVICS Kageyama F110)
*Tsunoda was absent.
Commemorative photo of award recipients of Race category including top drivers from SUPER GT.
JAF award-giving ceremony was followed by a socialization party, and GTA Co.,Ltd, the governing body of SUPER GT, presented their series-awards during the gathering. Driver and team champions of GT500 and GT300 classes received the series champion cup from GTA Chairman Masaaki Bandoh. In response to questions from Pierre Kitagawa, the Master of Ceremony, the champions from two classes reflected back on their season and also expressed their determination for the next season.
2018 GT500 Class Champion
Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button (No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT)
General Manager Kunimitsu Takahashi (No.100 TEAM KUNIMITSU)
(from left) GTA Chairman Bandoh, Yamamoto, Button, and General Manager Takahashi.
It really was my best season. I think it was a pressureful season for JB (Button) (for being a F1 World Champion), but he consistently generated results. Both of us drivers pushed hard, but we are only able to hold this trophy in our hands because Honda and TEAM KUNIMITSU as well as Bridgestone also worked hard with us and, of course, we had a lot of support from our fans. JB (Butoon) seems to be a little disappointed with the trophy though. (Yamamoto with a smile) I'm very grateful to be able to stand here at the champion celebration.
No matter how many times you win a series title, it is always a happy feeling every time. I had been working with Honda, and I always thought I would compete in a series in Japan sometime. That dream came true this year and I even won the title. I can't believe how happy I am. Of course, it's not only me, this is all the hard work from everybody like Naoki (Yamamoto) and General Manager Kunimitsu (Takahashi) as well as my team and Honda. But there is just one problem. There is only one trophy (for two drivers). Can I have one just for myself? (Button with a smile)
General Manager Kunimitsu Takahashi
(This is long-awaited first title, including from JGTC era, isn't it?) This is only achieved because of the support from everybody. I believe we were able to show the depth and excitement of racing again this year and enable the fans to enjoy motorsports. It has been a long time to win a championship, and I don't even remember when my last time was. I won the title, but my heart is filled with a sense of appreciation to my drivers, of course, but also our sponsors, Honda, and everybody.
2018 GT300 Class Champion
Haruki Kurosawa / Naoya Gamou (No.65 LEON CVSTOS AMG)
Team Director Tadashi Mizota (No.65 K2 R&D LEON RACING)
(from left) GTA Chairman Bandoh, Gamou, Kurosawa, and Team Director Mizota.
I've been to second place many times in SUPER GT series as well as other series, but, after I actually became a champion, I'm realizing how thankful this is. I'm involved with the team management also, so I will keep on trying to make the team even stronger and be competitive in years ahead.
(How do you feel holding the trophy?) I finally got it and I'm happy. Most memorable race this year? No doubt, it has to be the final race. We were able to win it, and we also had a good race, I think. I will do my best again to keep it up next season too.
Team Director Tadashi Mizota
(How heavy does the trophy feel?) Not so heavy. (laughter) If I consider how tough our rivals were, this past one year was just too good to us. It will be the same next season. We will just be normal and take on the challenges, that's how we are.
Drivers from different categories go head to head in Gran Turismo Sport!
With the "FIA Gran Turismo Championship" inaugurating as an FIA-authorized competition this year, the banquet room turned into a venue of an exhibition race using the real driving simulator Gran Turismo SPORT after the GTA award ceremony.
Eight drivers were selected to represent respective category, and two qualifying races were held where four drivers competed each, after which top two finishing drivers advanced to the final race. Three drivers familiar in SUPER GT, Naoki Yamamoto (No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT), Nick Cassidy (No.1 KeePer TOM'S LC500), and Ritomo Miyata (No.60 SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3), advanced to the final race along with Teppei Natori, who competed in the FIA-F4 Championship this year. Miyata, who changed his shoes to a pair of racing shoes before the final race, crossed the finish line first after impressively putting the GT race veterans behind him in fierce battle that drew big applause from the floor. JAF President Yashiro caught Miyata in a surprise by presenting a winner's trophy.