Hirate backs Yokohama to win races after Kondo Nissan move

Nissan’s Kohei Hirate says he’s convinced that the Yokohama tyre he will race in SUPER GT this year is capable of winning races following his surprise move to Kondo Racing.

Hirate backs Yokohama to win races after Kondo Nissan move
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Two-time GT500 champion Hirate has spent the last three seasons driving for the #3 NDDP/B-Max squad on Michelin tyres since joining Nissan in 2019.

However, for the 2022 campaign, Nissan has opted to place Hirate at Kondo while moving Mitsunori Takaboshi in the opposite direction to join Katsumasa Chiyo in the #3 car.

Yokohama has not won a GT500 race since 2016, but did show an improved performance last year, scoring two pole positions with the Racing Project Bandoh Toyota team and a front-row lockout at Motegi.

That has given Hirate some hope that he and Kondo teammate Daiki Sasaki can enjoy a competitive season aboard the only one of Nissan’s four all-new Zs on Yokohamas.

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“Honestly, we developed competitive tyres and made a good team for the last three seasons, so I wanted to continue for one more season [in car #3] to see the results,” Hirate told Motorsport.com.

“But by moving to car #24, and using Yokohama tyres for the first time, I thought it would be a very challenging year and I was able to take the news positively. Last year while using a different tyre I was able to see Yokohama’s potential.

"The tyre is fast in qualifying, and at high downforce tracks like Suzuka they can manage the tyres well, so I think if we can further develop those strengths, we will have chances to win.”

The highlight of Kondo Racing's 2021 season was finishing third at Suzuka

The highlight of Kondo Racing's 2021 season was finishing third at Suzuka

Hirate also thinks SUPER GT’s expected move towards having more long-distance races on the 2022 calendar could play to the strengths of the Yokohama tyre.

“All three [450km] races will be held in relatively warm conditions, which is a strength of Yokohama, so I think it’s a positive format for us,” he said.

Takaboshi meanwhile is targeting a first GT500 win now he has been placed alongside Chiyo at NDDP for his first campaign at the top level on anything other than Yokohamas.

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“In four years with Kondo Racing, I feel bad for the team that we only finished on the podium once and we couldn’t win a race,” Takaboshi told Motorsport.com. “Personally, I felt lacking in strength and disappointed.

“But despite that I was rated highly enough by NISMO to move to car #3, so I want to make use of what I learned at Kondo Racing and clear away my regrets.

“To begin with, the goal with the team is not so much the title so much as just winning a race. If we can’t win a race, the championship will be far away, so I want to aim to win a race first and then the championship.”


Nissan COO Motohiro Matsumura also explained the reasoning behind swapping Hirate and Takaboshi, pointing out the move is part of a longer-term strategy for the marque.

“We decided based not on the performance last year, but on vehicle development skills and career promotion,” Matsumura told Motorsport.com.

“Takaboshi had already done four seasons on Yokohama tyres and I believe he needs the experience of a different tyre. This is one of the key reasons, to explore this.

“At the same time, Yokohama still needs to develop its tyres and I think Hirate is one of the strongest when it comes to development skills. We are considering our long-term success in terms of training, car performance and everything.”


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