Ranking SUPER GT’s top 2022 GT500 driver pairings

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5. Bertrand Baguette/Kazuki Hiramine (Impul Nissan)

It was a close call between Impul’s new line-up and Rookie Racing Toyota pairing Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita. While Yamashita is undoubtedly one of the championship’s ace talents, we feel that the Baguette-Hiramine axis is the better balanced and, frankly, more exciting line-up of the two, as well as the pick of all the Nissan combinations.

As has been well-documented, Baguette arrives at Impul after a straight swap with Nobuharu Matsushita, who along with Hiramine helped end a five-year winless streak for Kazuyoshi Hoshino’s team last year. Baguette’s aggressive style is not dissimilar to that of the man he replaces, and is sure to gel well with the equally committed Hiramine.

Communication will be no issue either as Hiramine is fluent in English, and was already acquainted with Baguette thanks to a mutual friend in former JLOC Lamborghini man Marco Mapelli (Hiramine’s GT300 teammate in 2018). That strong rapport ought to provide a strong foundation for Impul this year.

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Bertrand Baguette, #17 Astemo NSX-GT

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Kazuki Hiramine(#12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R)

Kazuki Hiramine(#12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

4. Sacha Fenestraz/Ritomo Miyata (TOM’S Toyota #37)

If Ryo Hirakawa had stayed in SUPER GT for another season in the #37 TOM’S line-up along with Sacha Fenestraz, they would be a contender for the top spot on this list. But, with Hirakawa moving on to bigger things with the Toyota WEC squad, Fenestraz has a third different teammate in as many years in the form of fellow young gun Ritomo Miyata.

Both 22 years of age, former All-Japan Formula 3 rivals Fenestraz and Miyata form the youngest pairing on the grid in 2022. But both already have two GT500 seasons under their belt, albeit both with an asterisk by their name: Fenestraz missed five races last year due to visa woes, and Miyata is new to the Bridgestone tyre after two years on Yokohamas.

With Fenestraz and Miyata both still searching for their first top-class wins, this pairing makes it on the list more on explosive potential than anything else. But it carries echoes of the last line-up to win the title in the #37 car – Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy. They won the big prize in their first year together in 2017. Five years on, could lightning strike twice?

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Sacha Fenestraz(#36 au TOM'S GR Supra)

Sacha Fenestraz(#36 au TOM’S GR Supra)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Ritomo Miyata, Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Ritomo Miyata, Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

3. Nobuharu Matsushita/Koudai Tsukakoshi (Real Honda)

As part of the off-season ‘swap’ between Matsushita and Baguette, Real Racing mainstay Tsukakoshi is getting his fifth different teammate aboard the #17 Honda NSX-GT this year. But Matsushita is no stranger to the team either, having won the All-Japan F3 title back in 2014 in a Real-run car before embarking on his first of five seasons in GP2/F2.

Despite his SUPER GT experience being limited to just two late-season GT300 outings, Matsushita was a revelation last year, playing a major contribution in Impul’s revival after several seasons in the doldrums. Besides his speed and flair, the 28-year-old also adds a much-needed splash of youth to what was Honda’s oldest line-up.

Of course, Tsukakoshi and Baguette achieved some great results in their three seasons as teammates, and that was with the handicap of Tsukakoshi not being able to speak English. But on the evidence of last year, it’s hard to imagine that Matsushita’s arrival will have any effect other than making the #17 Astemo car an even stronger threat for title honours.

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2. Tomoki Nojiri/Nirei Fukuzumi (ARTA Honda)

When the two drivers that finished first and second in Super Formula last season are sharing a car, you know they are sure to feature highly on this list. And there’s a certain ‘master-and-apprentice’ feel that makes the bond between Nojiri and Fukuzumi one of the strongest on the grid, helping make for an especially…

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