All three GT500 manufacturers are set to be in action at the Miyagi Prefecture track on Tuesday and Wednesday with a single test car each.
As well as the Nissan Z, the Toyota GR Supra will run on Yokohamas, while the Honda Civic Type R-GT will be equipped with Dunlop rubber for the first time.
Nissan’s first run with its 2024 car – based on the new Z NISMO road car – at Okayama in July was conducted by Team Impul pair Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine using Bridgestone tyres (pictured top).
However, for the following test at Motegi in early September, the Z test mule was equipped with Michelin tyres, despite the French firm’s decision to leave the GT500 class following the 2023 season, with Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda driving.
For the Sugo test, Kondo Racing will operate the 2024 Z in collaboration with the NISMO test team, with Daiki Sasaki and Kohei Hirate taking turns at the wheel.
Confirming the Sugo test plans, Nissan SUPER GT executive director Motohiro Matsumura told Motorsport.com: “It was always our plan to do this step-by-step development.
“All the tyre manufacturers need to be offered a testing opportunity to develop the car. That’s a part of development.”
Nissan is planning to test again with Bridgestone tyres at Fuji on November 20-21, when Baguette and Hiramine will be back in action.
It is widely expected that Bridgestone will supply the two NISMO-run cars in 2024, but no announcement is likely to be forthcoming on the matter until early next year.
Fenestraz set for ‘audition’ test appearance
Sacha Fenestraz is set to return to the cockpit of a GT500 car when he tries out the Nissan Z in the manufacturer’s annual ‘audition’ test at Fuji in December.
Fenestraz was a regular of the Toyota SUPER GT stable from 2020-22 before exiting the series in favour of joining Nissan’s Formula E team.
The possibility of Fenestraz driving the Z GT500 has always been kept open, and the Franco-Argentine is finally set to sample the car in the one-day test that follows the NISMO Festival on December 4.
However, Fenestraz will continue to race in Formula E next season, and the all-electric series’ demanding schedule is likely to preclude a double programme with Nissan.
It remains to be seen who will join Fenestraz in the ‘audition’ test, although Teppei Natori is likely to be given a second run following an impressive season in the GT300 ranks alongside Joao Paulo de Oliveira in the Kondo Nissan outfit.
Riki Okusa had also been expected to participate for a second time, but the latest paddock speculation has the driver of the #10 Gainer GT300 car potentially switching to the Honda camp in 2024.
That follows Okusa’s outing with the Honda-aligned TGM Grand Prix outfit in the Suzuka Super Formula finale last month.
Besides Natori and Okusa, Kiyoto Fujinami and Atsushi Miyake also participated in the 2022 Fuji test.