Earlier this year, Honda announced it retire the NSX-GT in favour of a radical new GT500 model based on the Civic Type R road car, which made its first on-track appearance at Okayama in July (pictured top).
The car made a further outing at Motegi in September, and was then driven by Nojiri in a demonstration run during last weekend’s season finale at the same track.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Nojiri said that Nissan’s instant success with the Z last year means the pressure is on Honda to do similar in 2024 when the Civic arrives.
Asked if he felt the Civic would allow Honda to fight for the title next year, Nojiri replied: “At the moment I wouldn’t say I have this feeling.
“We are just working to try and fully understand the character of the car, and once we do that it will be a case of refining the set-up to try and improve its potential.
“But the Z was strong from its first year, so I think we also have to win the title in the first year with the Civic. I think the fans have high expectations, and I want to work hard to meet those.
“Of course there are always challenges in the first year when you introduce a new car, and we’ll have to make the necessary preparations to be able to fight even in those circumstances.”
The Civic was again in action this week at Sugo, with Takuya Izawa giving the new car its first run on Dunlop tyres. The previous tests were undertaken using Bridgestone rubber.
Fifth at Motegi shows “current potential” of ARTA
Nojiri concluded a frustrating final season with the NSX-GT eighth in the standings, as he and team-mate Toshiki Oyu experienced an up-and-down year sharing the #8 ARTA car.
The pair came away with a single victory at Sugo, inherited when the Real Racing Honda was disqualified, but otherwise managed only one other podium finish in a wet Okayama season opener.
Nojiri described the final race at Motegi as “reasonably good” as he and Oyu had a smooth run to fifth place, but admitted the result was an accurate reflection of where the Team Mugen-run ARTA squad stands versus the competition.
“Unlike Super Formula, where you have just one driver, SUPER GT requires two drivers to cooperate, but in that sense it was a season of trial and error,” reflected Nojiri.
“In terms of raw speed, ours is a team that definitely has the potential to fight at the top among the 15 [GT500] teams, but sometimes in SUPER GT it doesn’t work that way.
“The final round is a race with no success weight, so I think the result is a reflection of our current potential. It was a final race where our current potential became clear.
“I don’t think there are many areas where we are strong enough, and conversely there are many areas where we are lacking, hence this result, so I’d like to analyse the cause for that.”
Nojiri looks likely to have a new team-mate at ARTA next season, as there are serious question marks regarding Oyu’s status within the Honda camp for 2024.