Subaru's first SUPER GT title was "a long time coming"
Subaru's first-ever SUPER GT title with the brand-new BRZ was "a really long time coming" according to marque stalwart Hideki Yamauchi.
A third-place finish in last weekend's Fuji Speedway season finale for Yamauchi and his teammate aboard the R&D Sport-run BRZ, Takuto Iguchi, was enough for Subaru to claim its first championship in SUPER GT's lower division in more than 20 years of trying.
The pair ended up winning their first titles as drivers by a final margin of 12 point over defending champions Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujinami (Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3).
Yamauchi, who joined Iguchi the Subaru squad in 2015 to form one of the category's longest-standing driver partnerships, was keen to pay tribute to the team for its efforts during some lean seasons with the old BRZ, and the work of new general manager Masahiro Ozawa.
"It’s been a really long time coming," said Yamauchi. "There were two or three really hard years, but I think it was very important that we were able to get through those. Nobody in the team gave up.
"And after Ozawa-san came in, I saw with my own eyes the engine department, STI and everyone in Subaru working very hard. Driving in such an environment this season has been a pleasure."
Takuto Iguchi, Hideki Yamauchi #61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The season got off to a shaky start for Subaru and the new BRZ, with only a second-place finish at Fuji and one other single point to show for the opening half of the campaign.
But victory for Yamauchi and Iguchi at Sugo - Subaru's first in three years - launched the pair to the top of the GT300 standings, with another podium next time at Autopolis despite carrying maximum success weight putting the pair in a strong position to seal the title.
"It’s always quite hard to make a new car that’s fast," admitted Ozawa. "In winter testing we were able to ensure the car’s speed, but we really struggled in the first half of the season.
"We had a really painful experience [finishing 10th from pole] at Suzuka, a track where we were confident we could do well, but we used that as a turning point and the team worked as one to improve the car, and I think that’s what allowed us to win the championship."
GT300 veteran and sometime Toyota junior Iguchi also admitted he found the new BRZ difficult to get to grips with early on.
"For several races at the start of the season, for some reason I wasn’t able to get on with the [new] BRZ and it was a tough first half of the season," admitted Iguchi. "The team and Yamauchi helped me with that.
"I wanted to win the championship no matter what, and the fact we were able to do it reminded me of how strong this Subaru team is."
Subaru's championship victory also marked the first for a car built to SUPER GT's homegrown GT300 (formerly JAF GT300) ruleset since 2013, and the first for a non-FIA GT3 car since 2016.
Ex-F1 driver Kovalainen announces retirement from SUPER GT
How TOM’S' ‘number two’ car stole the title for Toyota