The 450km format was successfully trialled at three events last year, earning praise for providing a wide range of strategy options that resulted in more interesting races than the standard 300km distance.
Both Fuji races and the August race at Suzuka were held over 450km in 2022, with the remaining five events staying at the regular length.
But for this year’s calendar, the first Suzuka date in early June, as well as the penultimate round in Autopolis, are also set to be run to 450km. Okayama, Sugo and the Motegi finale are expected to stay at 300km.
It means that the 2023 season is set to comprise 3150km of race mileage — the highest figure since 2017, when the Suzuka 1000km was last held.
Last year, GTA chairman Masaaki Bandoh floated the prospect of slightly increasing the 450km distance for the longer races last year, but this idea appears to have been abandoned for the time being.
Likewise, the provision in the sporting regulations for extra points to be awarded for races longer than 700km (or four hours), added to the rulebook last year, will continue to be unused.
Sporting regs tweaked after 2022 controversies
The recently-released 2023 version of the sporting regulations contains several updates, some of which have been added in the wake of specific controversies that occurred last year.
One of these concerned Nissan driver Mitsunori Takaboshi’s race-halting crash at Round 2 at Fuji last year, which came while he was battling the Toyota of Yuhi Sekiguchi for the lead.
Sekiguchi was perceived to have contributed to the crash by utilising the slipstream of a slow-moving car on the long main straight, leaving Takaboshi no time to react when he ducked out of the tow at the last moment – triggering the crash that put the Nissan driver in hospital.
While Sekiguchi was not officially held responsible, SUPER GT organisers admitted that the rules would need to be tightened up to prevent similar incidents from occurring in future.
Two new items have been added to the list of acts that are considered dangerous according to SUPER GT’s ‘Moral Hazard Prevention System’ that awards drivers penalty points for unsafe driving.
These are “behaviour that puts another car in danger as a result of neglecting safety measures when there is a slow-moving vehicle due to car trouble” and “tailgating a vehicle that has displayed an intention to make a pitstop or is running slowly due to car trouble”.
In addition, any driver circulating slowly due to car trouble is now required to “notify the following cars by flashing the hazard or blinker and take safety measures so as not to obstruct other cars on the track”.
The driver of the slow-moving car in the case of Takaboshi’s crash, Arnage Racing’s Takeshi Suehiro, was not deemed to have done this, which was one reason Sekiguchi was not penalised in the Fuji incident.
The full-course yellow regulations have also been tweaked in the wake of last year’s Autopolis race during which two GT500 cars, the Real Racing Honda and Racing Project Bandoh Toyota, escaped penalties for overtaking during the 10-second full-course yellow countdown.
Previously, the procedure was for the FCY boards to be shown at the start of the countdown, and for the yellow flags to be waved when the countdown concluded to signify the start of the 80km/h speed limit.
From this season, the yellow flags will be waved at the start of the countdown – clearly showing that overtaking is prohibited – while the FCY boards themselves will not be shown until the countdown concludes.