Lexus reveals refreshed 2019 Super GT line-up
By: Rachit Thukral
Feb 7, 2019
Lexus has refreshed its Super GT line-up for the 2019 season following the departures of IndyCar-bound Felix Rosenqvist and Kamui Kobayashi.
As reported by Motorsport.com, rising star Sho Tsuboi has been promoted to the GT500 ranks following a stellar 2018 during season during which he dominated the Japanese F3 championship and scored several podiums in Super GT's GT300 category.
Tsuboi has been drafted in at the Bandoh team alongside incumbent and former Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto. He effectively takes the place of Kenta Yamashita, who has switched to Team LeMans alongside Kazuya Oshima to fill the seat vacated by Rosenqvist.
Lexus has also handed Yuichi Nakayama a break in Super GT’s flagship category, the multiple GT300 race winner being paired with Heikki Kovalainen at Sard in place of Kobayashi.
Meanwhile, TOM’S has elected to keep an unchanged line-up for both its cars after narrowly missing out on the 2018 title.
2017 champions Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa will drive the team’s #37 LC500, while Kazuki Nakajima and Yuhi Sekiguchi will again share the sister #36 car.
Cerumo, too, has decided to retain both Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa, despite suggestions that the latter could retire at the age of 43 after three titles and 18 race wins.
As part of the reshuffle, both Kobayashi and Rosenqvist will leave Super GT after one season each.
Kobayashi, who will continue in Super Formula in 2019 with KCMG, told Motorsport.com last month that he wants to focus on winning the Le Mans 24 Hours and the WEC title, while Rosenqvist's new IndyCar deal leaves no room for a dual campaign.
James Rossiter, who took part in two races last year and had been a regular fixture in Lexus' line-up before, has completely dropped out of the Toyota camp and is expected to jump ship to Nissan instead, with an announcement expected on Saturday.
2019 will mark the last season for Lexus in Super GT, before Toyota takes over from its luxury car brand and brings the Supra back to the series for the first time in more than a decade.
Reading that article made me wonder whether the Panis-Barthez Tech 1 Racing team was a second Lexus RC F GT3 team in Blancpain GT Europe racing or a replacement for the successful Emil Frey Racing. Sadly, it seems that the latter is the case. From Sportscar 365:
https://sportscar365.com/sro/blancpain-gt/panis-barthez-revealed-as-new-european-lexus-team/Tech 1 takes over from Emil Frey Racing as the main Lexus partner team in Europe, with the Swiss operation instead switching to Lamborghini machinery for the upcoming season.
Preceding that story comes word that Panis-Barthez Competition and Tech 1 team principal Fabien Barthez will also be one of the team's expected 4 drivers. (The others are still to be announced).