Kiwi GT pilot joins iconic Gulf Racing Porsche squad
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Kiwi Jono Lester has signed to drive with the iconic Gulf Racing team for this year’s Japanese Super GT Series.
The 27-year old was confirmed as the team’s lead driver today in an Official launch event at the Tokyo Auto Salon, announced alongside Japanese Kyosuke Mineo in the Gulf Porsche 991 GT3-R.
“The opportunity to join Gulf Racing in Super GT fulfills an ambition I have had for my entire driving career,” Lester said.
"I grew up marveling at the Super GT cars while playing ‘Gran Turismo’ on Playstation and ever since I began racing myself, it’s been my goal to one day race in this iconic championship.”
The duo forms a strong threat in the ultra-competitive GT300 class, which fields a capacity grid of 32 cars this season. Mineo is a former series champion with Porsche, winning the 2012 title for Team KTR, while Lester is a former Porsche Motorsport Talent Scholarship winner with more than a decade of experience in Carrera Cups and GT3 competition around the world.
This won’t be the first time Lester and Mineo have paired up in Super GT, having driven together at the 2016 Suzuka 1000km race in a Lamborghini Huracan for Direction 108 Racing.
That particular event was Lester’s Super GT debut, fulfilling a career-long ambition he has been working towards since the start of his career as a 13-year old in 2003, continuing a rich family history in New Zealand motorsport spanning three generations.
Gulf Racing is one of motorsport’s most iconic brands worldwide, and while its presence in Japanese motorsport is still relatively new, the young team have big plans for the future. 2017 will be the second season for Gulf Racing in Japanese Super GT, and features an overhauled line up of drivers, engineers and crew.
“To [race] with a team and brand like Gulf is the icing on the cake – I couldn’t think of a better combination than Gulf, Super GT and the Porsche race cars that I’ve grown up racing since I was 16 years old,” said Lester.
"Gulf Racing finished the season strong in 2016 and their 2017 overhaul of drivers, engineers and crew give us a strong platform to challenge for podiums this season. I can’t wait to get started."
The 2017 Japanese Super GT Series comprises eight events throughout Japan, with races from 250km to 1000km in duration across two classes – for GT500 and GT300 cars.
Lester is one of two Kiwis on the grid alongside Nick Cassidy, a factory driver for Lexus in the GT500 class who is returning for his second season.
Pre-season testing gets underway in March with a pair of two-day tests at Okayama and Fuji Speedway, before the opening round back at Okayama on April 08-09.
Throughout the 2017 season, NISMO.tv will again broadcast a LIVE stream of each Super GT race with full English commentary, thanks to the team at Radio Le Mans.