Nissan’s Bertrand Baguette has unfinished business

The Belgian driver was finally named as a new member of the Nissan GT500 stable this week, a move that had been anticipated since he announced that the 2021 season would be his last as a Honda driver.

Baguette will race for the Impul squad in 2022, effectively swapping places with Nobuharu Matsushita, who has moved in the opposite direction to join Honda outfit Real Racing.

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He’ll partner Kazuki Hiramine aboard Impul’s all-new Nissan Z as he continues his bid for a first GT500 crown in his ninth season in SUPER GT.

“My target remains the same, to become SUPER GT champion, and I feel like joining Nissan with a new car is a great opportunity to achieve that goal,” Baguette told Motorsport.com.

“I had eight years at Honda and I had a great relationship with them. We parted on good terms, there’s no bad feeling. But it gave me the chance to explore my options and open discussions with Nissan and I felt great interest from them.

“I was very interested as well because I knew they were coming with the new car. I feel good about the move and I’m really happy about this new challenge.”

 

Baguette admitted he had considered moving away from SUPER GT altogether after the end of his relationship with Honda, with travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic having severely limited the time has been able to spend with his family in Belgium in the last 18 months.

But he said that the offer from Nissan and his motivation to conquer Japan’s top sportscar series outweighed any lingering concerns.

“At the time COVID was getting better and it was something I discussed with my family,” he explained. “I hope this year will be the last difficult one [with travel restrictions], and we agreed I would do one more year of ‘sacrifice’.

“I feel good in Japan, I feel I have unfinished business here, I want to be champion, and I believe I have the ability. I want to give 100 percent to achieve that, and when I got the opportunity from Nissan, it was difficult to say no.”

After an ‘audition’ test with Nissan at Fuji Speedway in December, Baguette had his first taste of the new Z when he joined Impul for a two-day manufacturer test at Suzuka this week, sharing the cockpit with new teammate Hiramine.

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He described the chance to drive for the team’s legendary founder Kazuyoshi Hoshino and race in the iconic Calsonic colours as a “great honour”.

“We talked quite a lot during this test, he’s a legend – what he did as a driver was incredible,” said Baguette of Hoshino. “I could see the fighting mentality everyone has inside the team. They all want to win, they are highly motivated.

“I also have a very quick teammate in Kazuki, so all the pieces are in place for a good season. We just need to develop the car well for the Bridgestone tyres.

“I was really impressed by the team during this test and I am sure we can fight for the championship this year.”

Nissan Z GT500

Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan

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