Tom Coronel heads back to Japan.
After a three year absence Tom Coronel will return to Japan, the country where he celebrated his biggest victories. In 1997 he took the Japanese Formula 3 Championship and two years later he won the Formula Nippon crown. During the final two years of his stint in Japan Tom also took part in the Japanese GT Championship driving a Honda NSX. Coronel finished runner up in 1998 and also won the prestigious All Star race in both years. This year Tom Coronel will race for the Honda Mugen factory squad.
The first contact with Mugen started relatively early. "Last year I got a phonecall and I was asked to drive in the JGTC (Japanese GT Championship). At that time it was not possible as I already had an agreement with Carly Motors to drive in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC). This year I also have the option to drive for BMW in the ETCC, however the team still needs some sponsors to make the program possible. When that happens I will surely do another ETCC season, of course with the Carly Motors BMW. As last year I want to show my face around Europe.
On the other hand there are a lot of big car manufacturers in Japan and for me it is equally important to race there. I still know most competitors in the JGTC from my previous stint and I am really looking forward to go racing again in Japan. This season my partner in the NSX will be Daisuke Ito, a fine driver who won the Japanese Formula 3 race that I missed when I won the Marlboro Masters at Zandvoort at the same day. The team that I will drive for is Mugen.
For years they prepare all the factory racing engines for Honda, so I am confident that we will have the best material. The JGTC series consist of eight Championship races and is rounded off with the Non championship event, the All Star race at Shanghai in China. Furthermore we will drive at the Formula 1 track of Sepang in Malaysia. Both Shanghai and Sepang are new for me, but the rest of the tracks will be familiar; Aida, Fuji, Motegi and Suzuka.
For sure there will be a lot of spectacular action. I will never forget the monster crowds that come to watch the GT races. Every race about 60.000 fans come to see us racing, really amazing. However there is an easy explanation for the big crowds. The battles are fierce and at least 40 top entries are racing each other closely for one and a half hour!
This year there will be four Honda's NSX competing in the JGTC. Tom's nr. 16 car will be powered by a 3.5 liter 6 cylinder engine. The powerunit delivers about 340 to 470 bHP. Competition will come from cars like the Toyota Supra, Nissan Skyline GTR, McLaren F1 GTR and Chrysler Viper.