Ranking the best GT500 line-ups for the 2023 SUPER GT season

5. Koudai Tsukakoshi/Nobuharu Matsushita

#17 Real Racing Honda

Real Racing’s pairing goes into a second season together this year, but slides two positions on these rankings compared to 12 months ago. That follows a 2022 campaign in which Matsushita didn’t quite deliver on the immense promise that he had shown in his debut GT500 season with Nissan and Team Impul. While it was natural for Matsushita to want to return to the marque that has guided him through much of his career when the chance was there, the Real squad may not have been the ideal environment in which to flourish.

Perhaps this goes to show how much influence Tsukakoshi has within a team with which he has raced since 2009 — a reality underlined by the experience of Bertrand Baguette, who swapped places with Matsushita and found working with Impul a welcome breath of fresh air. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that Matsushita should be in a position to wield slightly more authority in 2023, particularly if he continues to display the prodigious speed and exciting attacking style that has been a hallmark of his career until now.


4. Tomoki Nojiri/Toshiki Oyu

#8 ARTA Honda

After a 2021 season that saw them come within four points of title glory, it was disappointing to see ARTA pair Nojiri and Nirei Fukuzumi let down so badly by operational errors not of their making last year. Against that backdrop, long-time service provider Servus Japan has been replaced by Mugen for this year, but so too have the driver line-ups been reshuffled, with Fukuzumi moving over to what becomes the second car in the ARTA stable. In his place arrives Oyu after two seasons struggling on Dunlop tyres at Team Mugen.

As documented here, the Nojiri/Oyu combination has the potential to be one of the most potent on the grid when measured on pure talent levels alone. However, Oyu’s unique personality and approach to racing compared with the much more conventional, mild-mannered Fukuzumi promises to be something of a learning curve for Nojiri in particular. The two-time Super Formula champion thinks he’s better placed than most within the Honda stable to harness Oyu’s energy, but is he really up to the task?



3. Sho Tsuboi/Ritomo Miyata

#36 TOM’S Toyota

Faced with a dearth of A-grade talent to replace Formula E-bound Sacha Fenestraz, TOM’S did the only sensible thing and paired up its two remaining top talents in its #36 car to create one of the most formidable line-ups on the grid. Tsuboi and Miyata know each other well from their days partnering one another in All-Japan Formula 3, and rekindled their bond last year, albeit from opposing sides of the TOM’S garage. Together, they arguably form the team’s strongest combination since Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy shared a car in 2020.

For Tsuboi, joining forces with Miyata will come as a welcome change to sharing a car with Giuliano Alesi, who has moved across to the sister #37 TOM’S car to join Toyota newcomer Ukyo Sasahara. Miyata meanwhile is perhaps an even stronger partner for Tsuboi in the #36 machine than the latter’s 2021 co-champion Yuhi Sekiguchi was. It’s a combination that’s undoubtedly good enough to go for the title, assuming the GR Supra is up to the job.



2. Bertrand Baguette/Kazuki Hiramine

#1 Impul Nissan

We only had this line-up placed fifth in our rankings last year, but with the benefit of hindsight we can say that Team Impul duo Baguette and Hiramine exceeded expectations by some margin as they bagged Nissan a first top-level SUPER GT title since 2015. Hiramine continued to go from strength to strength in his third season as a member of the Nissan GT500 stable, but Baguette made the move from Honda look utterly seamless, even if he was helped in his transition by one of the most ‘gaijin-friendly’ team set-ups in the paddock.

Credit has to go to Kazuki Hoshino, the son of team patriarch and Japanese racing legend Kazuyoshi, for helping to foster this environment and bringing out the best in his drivers, who besides being well-suited teammates are also great friends away from the track. That was surely a factor in helping Baguette get up to speed at Nissan after eight seasons with Honda — and a clear demonstration that team chemistry and harmony are every bit as important as car performance when it comes to the business of winning titles in SUPER GT.


1. Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino

#100 Kunimitsu Honda

After the events of 2022, it was a close call between Team Kunimitsu pair Yamamoto and Makino and the reigning champions for the top spot on this list. But, taking everything into consideration, we have to conclude that Yamamoto and Makino just about edge it. Granted, 2022 was arguably the pair’s least convincing season as a duo following their 2020 title win and their heartbreaking near miss, but that has more to do with Honda losing its crown to Nissan as the strongest all-round manufacturer than the talents of the men charged with delivering the late Kunimitsu Takahashi a first eponymous championship triumph.

While Baguette is maybe lacking that final half a tenth of raw pace in qualifying, and Hiramine is still prone to the odd case of trying a bit too hard, Yamamoto and Makino are the complete package both in terms of one-lap prowess and sheer consistency, perhaps helped by having had longer as a duo. Remove them from the equation and Honda would still be searching for a first SUPER GT title since 2010. With them, the Sakura marque can never be discounted, even if the NSX-GT is no longer the benchmark car in the top class.


Just missing out

Katsumasa Chiyo/Mitsunori Takaboshi — The occupants of the NDDP Racing Nissan established themselves as title contenders last year with two victories, but it was hard to shake the feeling that Chiyo — in his third consecutive year in the #3 car — was doing most of the legwork. Takaboshi acquitted himself well, but is he capable of becoming an elite driver?

Kenta Yamashita/Kazuya Oshima — We didn’t include the Rookie Toyota line-up in our top five last year because of doubts over Oshima’s speed at this stage in his career. But if anything, it was Oshima who slightly exceeded expectations while Yamashita undershot them, although he did finish the campaign with strong drives at Autopolis and Motegi.

Nirei Fukuzumi/Hiroki Otsu — Another promising line-up on paper, but question marks surround both members of the ARTA/Mugen ‘B-squad’. Fukuzumi has to prove he can step up to the lead driver role after three years of being in the shadows of Nojiri. Otsu meanwhile, along with Oyu, is the first driver in three years to move from Dunlop tyres to Bridgestones.


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