Saitama Toyopet's Kawaai to miss Suzuka SUPER GT round
The Saitama Toyopet Green Brave SUPER GT team has announced that Kohta Kawaai will skip this weekend's Suzuka race after testing positive for COVID-19.
Kawaai's place aboard the team's GT300 class #52 Toyota GR Supra GT300 alongside Hiroki Yoshida will be taken by series veteran Taku Bamba, who will make his first SUPER GT start since 2018.
A statement from the team said Kawaai is currently recovering at home and that the rest of the team members' PCR tests came back negative.
Japanese Formula 4 graduate Kawaai made his SUPER GT debut last year for the Saitama Toyopet squad, scoring two wins alongside Yoshida to finish second in the GT300 drivers' standings behind Kondo Racing Nissan pair Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujinami.
The duo currently lie third in this year's standings after three races with two third-place finishes at Okayama and Motegi.
Bamba, 39, meanwhile returns to the team he raced for full-time in 2017 and '18 before being replaced for 2019 by Yoshida. Prior to that, he was a GT300 champion in 2011 with the Goodsmile Racing team.
Due to his time out of the series, Bamba will have to pass SUPER GT's 'rookie test' in Saturday's free practice session, which essentially means completing 10 consecutive laps at a particular speed.
Yoshida and Bamba go into this weekend's race carrying 66kg of success ballast, courtesy of the 22 points scored by the team so far.
The two crews that jointly lead the standings, Naoya Gamou/Togo Suganami (LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Hironobu Yasuda (Gainer Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3) both carry 75kg of extra weight.
UPDATE: K-Tunes Racing has announced that Hibiki Taira will sit out this weekend's Suzuka race due to ill health, and that his place in the team's Lexus RC F GT3 will be taken by Kazuto Kotaka.
#96 K-tunes RC F GT3
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
KCMG Super Formula regular Kotaka will make his second GT300 appearance of the season after racing for the Inging/Cars Tokai Lotus squad in May's Fuji 500km as a third driver.
Taira has filled in for K-Tunes regular Sena Sakaguchi - who is replacing the absent Sacha Fenestraz in the TOM'S GT500 line-up - since the beginning of the season alongside Morio Nitta, with the pair scoring their best finish of the year so far of sixth in the Okayama season opener.
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