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GTA Targets Sepang Race Return in 2025 or 2026

SUPER GT boss Masaaki Bandoh sets June deadline to decide whether Sepang can hold race in 2025…

Photo: Kazuya Minakoshi

SUPER GT organizer GTA has set itself the target of holding the series’ first overseas race since 2019 at Sepang either next season or the one after.

The Japanese series last held a race outside its national borders back in 2019, on its final visit to Buriram in Thailand, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 forcing both that race and a planned return to Sepang in Malaysia to be cancelled.

However, with COVID restrictions having now long since been lifted, a first test for GT500 cars was held earlier this year at Sepang, and has widely been viewed as a tentative first step towards getting a race outside of Japan back on the schedule.

Giving an update on the situation, GTA chairman Masaaki Bandoh confirmed that Sepang is the leading candidate to hold an overseas race, the venue having last hosted SUPER GT back in 2013 before it was replaced on the schedule by Buriram in 2014.

But he warned that the high costs of shipping cars and equipment overseas means that the plan could be pushed back to 2026.

“We believe it’s essential to restore holding an overseas race,” Bandoh said in his regular press conference ahead of Sunday’s opening round of the season at Okayama.

“Looking at the situation in terms of logistics and costs post-COVID, we have to calculate the costs involved rather than the cost-effectiveness. Right now, we are not sure if we are able to make the numbers add up.

“We would like to do it [as soon as 2025], but it depends how quickly we can reach a conclusion. Because of the need to submit the calendar [to Japanese national federation JAF], we have to have a plan in place by June.

“If we don’t have a plan in place by then, most likely it will be the year after next. We’ll work as hard as possible to move in that direction.”

In the event that SUPER GT adds a Sepang date to the schedule in 2025, Bandoh said it would be held during the two-month gap that exists on the current calendar between the third round at Suzuka in early June and the fourth round at Fuji in early August.

“In recent years, June and July have been empty in the calendar, so if we go ahead with it, most likely it would take place in June or July,” said Bandoh.

“But in the event we increase the number of overseas races, it will be as a ‘winter series’ with a few races in Southeast Asia. We’re thinking about how to achieve that.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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