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Will GT-R defend? Or will it be SC430 or NSX regaining the title? Okayama to re-host opening round after 4 years for the '09 season kick- off!! MAX focus on big rookies and new foreign machine! On March 21st and 22nd, the 2009...

Will GT-R defend? Or will it be SC430 or NSX regaining the title?

Okayama to re-host opening round after 4 years for the '09 season kick- off!!

MAX focus on big rookies and new foreign machine!

On March 21st and 22nd, the 2009 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series kicks off with "OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE" at Okayama International Circuit in Okayama prefecture. Despite the concern about possible impact from increasingly severe economic situation, 36 cars are on the entry list for the opening event. Moreover, new cars and big rookies, the opening round has a lot of exciting topics to offer as in usual flamboyant season opener.

Can reigning champion GT-R defend its title?

Coming back after 5 years of absence, GT-R won 7 out of 9 SUPER GT races last year, which the Satoshi Motoyama/Benoit Treluyer partnership scored 3 wins including 2 consecutive wins from the season opener to bring in the driver's title to conclude the remarkable debut year for the new GT-R. The season which the Motoyama/Treluyer pair will be decorated with the Number 1 that only champion is allowed to wear, GT-R camp will be fielding four cars to the series. Not much is changed on the car from last year, but it executed testing menu smoothly at the pre-season testing. It seems like nothing is in the way, at least for now, for the GT-R to defend its title. One of a few changes seen in the GT-R camp happened with No.3 HASEMI TOMICA EBBRO GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli/Hironobu Yasuda) for which the team will be fitted with Michelin tires this season. It's a worthwhile to see what kind of performance will the tire manufacturer showcase after coming back to the GT500 class since 2003.

SC430 clocked the fastest at the official testing.

SC430 camp had an early start on the preparation for the season. The engine and chassis are produced in accordance with this year's new regulation, and No.38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa) bravely marked the top time at the official test that takes place right before the season opener every year. Tachikawa on SC430 with the fastest lap time at the test and the defending champ Motoyama on GT-R share the record for most wins. It's newsworthy to see which of the two winningest drivers extend the record.

In spite of the mediocre time at the test, it is hard to believe that NSX will remain low profile. All of the NSXs including No.8 ARTA NSX (Ralph Firman/Takuya Izawa) are looking to turn the tables for sure.

The '09 season will see five GT500 rookies of Hironobu Yasuda (No.3 HASEMI TOMICA EBBRO GT-R), Koudai Tsukakoshi (No.17 KEIHIN REAL NSX), Yuki Nakayama (No.32 EPSON NSX), and Kazuya Oshima (No.35 KRAFT SC430), and Kohei Hirate (No.39 DUNLOP SARD SC430), who may well have a good chance to steal some attention especially when the two GT300 champions, '08 champion Yasuda and '07 champion Oshima, may go head to head on the track to prove who is on top.

Another eye-catcher, a foreign-made vehicle, No.21 ASTON MARTIN AKASAKA DBR9 (Akihiro Tsuzuki/Takeshi Tsuchiya), is competing in the top class for the first time since a long while.

Garaiya and Z wrapped the test in good rhythm. The road is clear for Corolla Axio.

'08 GT300 champion No.46 S Road MOLA Z made few changes to the team and their machine will be running on Yokohama tires with Kazuki Hoshino remaining with the team to share the wheel with new partner, Masataka Yanagida. Contrastingly, No.43 ARTA Garaiya, who ended short to the title by just 1 point last year, will compete the season with the same machine and tires handled by the drivers in the 16th season of partnership, Morio Nitta and Shinichi Takagi.

No.43 came on top followed by No.46 in second place at the official test. Prediction says the aforementioned two and other teams that contested for the title until the end last year such as No.2 Privee Apple Shiden (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh), and No.19 Weds Sport IS350 (Manabu Orido/Tatsuya Kataoka) may again stand up for the candidacy.

The other highlight of the class is the debut of Corolla Axio. Being the same team, No.31 avex apr COROLLA Axio (Yuya Sakamoto/Hideki Yamauchi) and No.74 COROLLA Axio apr GT (Takuto Iguchi/Yuji Kunimoto) will both field Toyota Corolla Axio to the series, but with different make of tires, No.31 wearing Yokohama and No.74 wearing Michelin. It would be interesting to see how each will perform with different tires.

-credit: supergt

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