It’s safe to say that the Japanese Super GT championship is one of the most exciting competitions the world has ever seen. Although most of the drivers are Japanese, a large number of international talents flock to the series too. That meant that although we were 9000km from home, a lot of familiar faces popped up in the paddock and one of them was non-other French endurance ace Frederic Makowiecki.
Frederic, as a European driver, what’s your experience of racing in Japan?
In Europe, the racing organisations are always focused on balancing everything out, locking in a particular tyre manufacturer, limiting a team’s strategy options. But in Japan it’s totally the opposite. Here, development and pure racing are encouraged much more than in Europe. At Super GT there is no spec tyre manufacturer and there is a genuine war going on between the tyre manufacturers, which pushes the development of new products. And that’s exactly why we race.
What’s it like racing a GT500 machine? Can you describe it?
The GT500 is in essence a very exotic GT car. It has some characteristics that are very similar to a GT car. It moves around a lot and it’s very tail happy, but on the other hand we have the power and downforce of an LMP1 car. All that makes this car one of the most impressive race cars I’ve ever driven.
What’s your favourite aspect of driving Super GT?
There are so many! I believe my favourite bit is the qualifying mode. Driving these cars at maximum power is addictive. In GT3 racing our lap delta between a fast race lap and a qualifying lap is about one second. Here in Fuji in a GT500 the gap is about four seconds between the qualification lap and a race lap, which is just incredible.
Later this year, DTM & Super GT will hold a mixed event. What’s your take on this collaboration?
I think it’s a great idea and if they push it further it could be a great opportunity for the championship. The only thing I’m worried about is that the mix will take away some of the classic characteristics of Super GT. For instance, DTM does have a spec tyre manufacturer, which is something I would prefer not to have in any championship. Also, from my experience working with German teams, the Germans are a lot more conservative and political when it comes to motorsport. The Japanese on the other hand are totally the opposite. So, I hope that they retain the Japanese spirit of the championship.
Looking forward to 2021, FIA WEC is changing to a more supercar/GT-based platform. Do you think the GT500 machine could be an inspiration for this championship?
The philosophies of the two championships are very different. The FIA WEC is much more focused on manufacturer development than the Super GT. The FIA tries to push manufacturers to develop new technologies, which in turn is really expensive and can create some problems. One of the most important things about racing is the show aspect, and when a championship solely focuses on development, the show element is often forgotten. Without a proper show, there won’t be any spectators and without spectators you might as well stay home.