Sean Walkinshaw, leader of the GT300 class in the ultra-competitive Super GT Championship, is eyeing consistency and a sustained challenge for major points when the penultimate round of the 2018 season takes place at Autopolis in Japan this weekend, 20th/21st October.
Going into the seventh race of the campaign, Chipping Norton-based Walkinshaw and Autobacs Racing Team Aguri team-mate Shinichi Takagi have a seven point advantage at the top of the GT300 standings and they’re determined to try and further increase that cushion at the 4.6-kilometre track.
Autopolis, of course, was the venue for Walkinshaw’s maiden Super GT podium last year – where he was also partnered by Takagi in the No.55 BMW M6 GT3 – and so the circuit holds some very happy memories for the British racer.
With only two races now standing between him and what would be a memorable championship triumph in one of the world’s most highly regarded endurance racing categories, Walkinshaw knows the importance of scoring as heavily as possible at the weekend – particularly after a tough outing last month at Sugo Sportsland.
With the track posing one of the toughest challenges of the year for the ARTA BMW, the layout not suiting the characteristics of the car, any hope of adding to their points tally was always going to be slim for Walkinshaw and Takagi, especially when adding in an immense 100kg of ‘success’ ballast.
Even so, the duo performed superbly and did the unthinkable by carving through from 23rd on the GT300 grid into a points-paying top 10 finish. With their chief championship rivals also struggling at Sugo, the title bid remains well on course going into the penultimate weekend.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to a track our car goes well at”, said Walkinshaw, who has two GT300 race victories to his credit this season, “Hopefully we’ll have a good result, the same as last year, but it is going to be tricky running with maximum ballast – which nobody else has. However, we’ll do our best to fight at the front.
“Autopolis is a proper old-school circuit and great fun to drive, but it is also very tricky and has no run-off so it’s important to get up to speed quickly and safely. I know the team will be doing the absolute maximum, as always, to give us the best possible car.”
Last week, the ARTA squad took part in a two-day officially timed test at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, the venue for the Super GT Championship finale in mid-November, which provided key running and set-up time. Additionally, Walkinshaw made only his second ever outing in front-wheel drive this past weekend at Donington Park in the UK during the season finale of the TCR UK Championship.
Now, though, all focus is on Autopolis where practice and qualifying for round seven will take place on Saturday, 20th October, with the 300-kilometre race following on Sunday, 21st October.