Nissan trials four youngsters in GT500 'audition' test

Nissan trialled a quartet of young SUPER GT drivers in GT500 machinery on Monday at Fuji Speedway as it seeks to finalise its 2023 driver line-ups.

Nissan trials four youngsters in GT500 'audition' test

Kiyoto Fujinami, Riki Okusa, Atsushi Miyake and Teppei Natori were all in action for the one-day test, held the day after the NISMO Festival using the two Michelin-shod Zs operated by the works NISMO team.

While Nissan is always officially tight-lipped about its annual ‘shootout’ test, NISMO COO Motohiro Matsumura told Motorsport.com last month that Fujinami and Okusa are regarded as candidates for a step up to the marque’s GT500 stable.

However, there have also been paddock suggestions that Nissan may elect for an entirely unchanged line-up across its four cars after securing its first top-class title since 2015.

Ostensibly with the best chance of a move to the top division is Fujinami, who last month won the GT300 class title for the second time in three years sharing Kondo Racing’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 with Joao Paulo de Oliveira.

Fujinami was taking part in the NISMO test for the third time

Fujinami was taking part in the NISMO test for the third time

Fujinami, 27, has taken part in Nissan’s annual ‘shootout’ for the past two years, but lost out to Nobuharu Matsushita for a place in the GT500 stable in 2021, while Bertrand Baguette’s arrival in place of Matsushita also precluded a step up for this year.

Okusa on the other hand was driving a GT500 car for the first time off the back of an impressive debut season for the 22-year-old in SUPER GT’s GT300 class sharing a Gainer-run GT-R with veteran Ryuichiro Tomita.

Miyake, 23, raced in Super Formula with Team Goh this year alongside a GT300 campaign with the Toyota-affiliated Max Racing team, but was also part of the 2021 Nissan shootout alongside Baguette and Fujinami and represented the marque in Super Taikyu.

Miyake was making his second test outing for Nissan, and raced in Super Formula this year for Team Goh

Miyake was making his second test outing for Nissan, and raced in Super Formula this year for Team Goh

Last year’s Super Formula Lights champion Natori was heavily linked to a Nissan move this time a year ago, and was even thought to have a seat with the Gainer team secured before an ill-fated attempt to move to Formula 2 with the Trident team.

That left the 22-year-old on the sidelines in SUPER GT, save for a cameo outing for Tomei Sports in the Motegi season finale, although he kept active in Super Taikyu.

Nissan is likely to announce its GT500 line-ups for the 2023 season in January, which will make it the last of SUPER GT’s ‘big three’ to do so.

Toyota has already revealed its line-ups, with the exception of one ‘TBC’ slot at TOM’S that looks set to be filled by Ukyo Sasahara, while Honda has scheduled the announcement of its 2023 motorsport activities for December 12.

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