Happy Holidays! Please enjoy this special JGTC 2004 video upload!
Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you're all making the best of the festive season wherever you are. I know this year hasn't been the best and when things were looking to go back to normal, big bad Omicron decided to throw shade on everybody's plans (Omicron always was the worst of the Decepticons, IMHO!). Despite it all though it's always better to try and stay positive so in honor of the holidays I thought I'd upload a special treat that many of you have probably never seen!
Japan's Super GT race series has always
been primarily confined to the island nation of Nippon but that
doesn't mean that the organizers haven't tried to expand overseas.
Overseas rounds have been run several times in Malaysia and Thailand
with plans at times to also race in China. Way back in 2004 though
when the series was still called the Japan GT Championship the
exciting action of the Land of the Rising Sun's top racing series
made a single trip across the Pacific to the good old US of A!
With the help of an organizer in the US the GT Association of Japan decided to host a special season-ending All-Star Race at California Speedway (now known as Auto Club Speedway) in Fontana, California. To add to the excitement the US organizers arranged for the JGTC racing to be part of a two-day festival that also included an “East versus West” drift competition between the top drivers of Japan's D1GP circuit and their counterparts from the America's Formula D, as well as various other activities for fans to enjoy such as vendor displays, RC car racing, and go-karts.
Most of the action was covered by Speed Channel in their one-hour special called “Inside GT Live” which is the video I've uploaded for your enjoyment!
The main GT racing event was the 200-miler held on Saturday evening. The race proved to be historic for several reasons, not the least of which was the controversial ending that you can see in the video. Unfortunately the coverage can be a bit annoying because of the repeated cuts away from the racing to splice in other segments, some of which can be rather cringe-inducing. For example, Speed Channel choosing a hot rod magazine journalist to help cover such an import-centric event makes about as much sense as showing up to Sturgis Bike Week on a Honda Super Cub.
A lot of it is genuinely interesting though such as the segments on the drifting event that include interviews with Sam Hubinette and a very young Tanner Foust, some great video of R34 GT-R time attack cars being piloted by Tarzan Yamada, as well as a short bit where Alain de Cadenet talks about the RE Amemiya RX-7 GT300 race car and the glorious sound it's triple rotor engine makes.
Inexplicably though Speed Channel totally left out the second day of GT Racing on Sunday where two sprint races were held. From the beginning the JGTC race teams had concerns about the road course layout set up at California Speedway with limited and tricky passing opportunities, a bumpy infield section, and a highly-despised makeshift chicane added to the oval portion. Partly because of that and partly because of damage sustained from the previous night's race several teams sat out the Sunday events including the reigning champion Nismo contingent. This left the door open to a dominant win by the #32 PIAA Honda NSX that had finished second in the 200-miler.
Although GT Live drew a hefty crowd of 45,000 comparable to a typical IndyCar weekend, plans for future US JGTC events never materialized with the US and Japanese organizers not able to come to an agreement again. GT Live was held again in 2005 but it was missing the Japan GT racing that had given birth to the idea and was mainly a drift and time-attack event.
Despite the controversy and its one-off status GT Live remains an important event in Super GT history – not only was it the only time a JGTC event was held outside of Asia, the 200 miler was the only time the series held a pure night race, and it was also the very last official event under the JGTC name before the series came to be called Super GT. If you're a fan of Super GT or motorsports and import cars in general I hope you enjoy this fascinating look back at this historic event!
Since it's the holidays I'm going to take a bit of a break from posting to catch up on things but I hope you'll check back for future posts on my return. I'll have posts, pics, and video from when Nissan let me check out their secret stash of historic cars in the US, progress notes on my R34 and Nismo R32, and maybe some news on the next addition to my little Nissan family!
Have a great holiday season!