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Friday, June 21, 2024

The brand new Toyota celebrity who has joined an unique Japanese racing membership

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Probabilities for drivers to win each the Tremendous Method and Tremendous GT titles in a single season are extraordinarily uncommon. That’s the reason the unique membership of ‘double champions’ numbered solely 4 drivers till they had been joined by a brand new member in 2023: Ritomo Miyata.

It has been fairly the yr for Miyata, who joins Pedro de la Rosa, Satoshi Motoyama, Richard Lyons and Naoki Yamamoto in conquering each classes in the identical yr, turning into by far the youngest to take action on the age of 24. Not solely that, however Miyata can be the primary manufacturing facility Toyota driver to beat the 2 prime classes in Japanese motorsport (de la Rosa’s GT500 title in 1997 additionally got here on the wheel of a TOM’S-run Supra, however Method Nippon, because it was recognized, was a one-make class again then).

“Now I’ve develop into champion in all the key classes in Japan, together with F4, F3 [Super Formula Lights], Tremendous Method and now GT500, so now I can go and compete on the world stage with no reservations,” mentioned Miyata in a transparent nod to his 2024 plans, as he prepares to take on the World Endurance Championship with the ASP Lexus LMGT3 team in 2024.

And it appears to be like like Miyata, who earlier this yr was formally unveiled as a member of Toyota’s WEC Problem scheme to nurture drivers for the world stage, has each probability of occurring to develop into a member of the Japanese producer’s Hypercar roster within the coming seasons if he can sustain the startling charge of development he has demonstrated over the previous few seasons.

Whereas Miyata was very good in Tremendous GT, it’s most likely his Tremendous Method title that may linger within the reminiscence most of all from the 2023 season. And what makes that achievement all of the extra outstanding is the truth that he went into his third season representing the flagship TOM’S squad within the single-seater sequence with simply two third-place finishes on his CV.

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Initially, it seemed like 2023 is perhaps extra of the identical for Miyata. He certified second for each of the opening races at Fuji, solely to slide again to fourth and fifth within the two races because the wins had been break up by his eventual title rivals, Mugen pair Liam Lawson and Tomoki Nojiri. However after scoring his first win in the next round at Suzuka, Miyata seemed like a modified man.

Picture by: Masahide Kamio

Miyata’s first SF win at Suzuka proved a turning level that gave him new confidence

Miyata’s race engineer Masaki Saeda tells Autosport: “When he gained the third spherical at Suzuka, he needed to make quite a lot of overtakes and I believe that grabbing that consequence actually boosted his confidence so much. I believe he matured so much by getting that first win.

“It’s our third yr of working collectively and he has at all times been making steps in the suitable path. Ritomo has made quite a lot of progress with tyre administration and overtaking, so every part has gone in the suitable path, together with these issues.”

After that win, Miyata was solely off the rostrum as soon as for the remainder of the season. Even when he was, it was at his self-proclaimed bogey circuit, Motegi, the place he nonetheless completed fourth. It was this consistency that allowed him to beat Pink Bull junior Lawson to the title.

“He has develop into stronger and stronger, first profitable Tremendous Method and Tremendous GT… Truthfully, I’m amazed at simply how good he has develop into” Jun Yamada

Lawson’s peaks had been arguably larger than Miyata’s, however a mix of small issues going unsuitable – penalties, technique errors and incidents – ended up costing him dearly. Miyata, in the meantime, just about maximised what he had each weekend, regardless of the continued drawback of the Toyota engine in comparison with the Honda unit utilized by his rivals in qualifying trim. Miyata referenced this in his press convention when he clinched the title at Suzuka, admitting he feared Honda runners might end up monopolising the Q2 spots

Only a week on from turning into the youngest to put on the Tremendous Method/Method Nippon crown since Ralf Schumacher again in 1996, Miyata scored a 3rd win of the Tremendous GT season within the Motegi season finale to ensure himself and his TOM’S team-mate Sho Tsuboi a dominant title. Nevertheless it was the earlier race at Autopolis, the place the pair won from 12th following a final-stint charge from Miyata, that put them in such a powerful place. It was one other superlative show from a driver who has seemed virtually unstoppable since that pivotal Suzuka win in Tremendous Method again in April.

“Since he gained at Suzuka, he’s been quick just like the wind,” TOM’S boss Jun Yamada informed Autosport after the Motegi finale. “He has develop into stronger and stronger, first profitable Tremendous Method and Tremendous GT… Truthfully, I’m amazed at simply how good he has develop into.

“In fact, Tsuboi can be an ideal driver and the mixture of these two has labored fantastically. Having the 2 of them drive collectively, I believe there was strain on them to develop into champions, and naturally there was strain on the group. So I believe it’s sensible that the 2 of them did such job and introduced house the championship.”

Miyata has proven equally adept in single-seaters and in GT cars, all the while maturing quicker than many of his contemporaries

Picture by: Masahide Kamio

Miyata has confirmed equally adept in single-seaters and in GT automobiles, all of the whereas maturing faster than lots of his contemporaries

Miyata, whose first identify is derived from an {old} mannequin of Fiat, the Ritmo, hasn’t had a traditional upbringing. Recognized with autism at a younger age, he admitted after his Tremendous Method win that he had a tough time at college, with go-karting turning into his escape. He climbed the karting ranks to develop into All-Japan champion in 2014, then earned a Toyota scholarship to race in Japanese Method 4 in 2016, duly profitable the title at his first strive.

He defended his title the next yr, keeping off a sure Yuki Tsunoda within the course of, whereas additionally embarking on a four-year journey in All-Japan F3/Tremendous Method Lights that lastly yielded the title in 2020 after a close to miss in 2019 in opposition to his good pal (and future TOM’S GT500 team-mate) Sacha Fenestraz.

In 2021, Miyata was given the keys to Nick Cassidy’s TOM’S Tremendous Method machine, however at first he wasn’t vastly spectacular in Japan’s prime single-seater class. In actual fact, he was overshadowed by his fellow rookies, together with team-mate Giuliano Alesi, who stole the headlines with what now needs to be thought to be a really fortuitous win within the moist at Autopolis.

However Miyata’s progress within the two years has been startling. Such was his dominance within the group that Alesi lost his TOM’S drive in the midst of this season. The Frenchman’s mid-season alternative, Ukyo Sasahara, likewise did not make a lot of an impression earlier than his season ended prematurely with his horror accident at 130R.

It’s onerous to think about many Japanese drivers who’ve seemed so full so early of their careers. On the identical age as Miyata, Naoki Yamamoto – the final driver to do the ‘double’ in Japan again in 2018 and ‘20 – was in his third season of Method Nippon and had not but scored a podium. Tomoki Nojiri, the person Miyata dethroned this yr, was a struggling rookie, nonetheless seven years away from his breakthrough 2021 marketing campaign on the age of 24.

Maybe you would need to return to Kamui Kobayashi, who was a Method 1 rookie at 24, to discover a Japanese driver who has matured as quickly as Miyata has. And coincidentally it’s Kobayashi, now a a number of WEC champion and Le Mans 24 Hours winner with Toyota, whom the brand new child on the block appears to be like destined to finally exchange.

On the age of 37, Kobayashi little doubt has a number of extra good years in him, however his double duties because the group principal of the Toyota WEC outfit means the strain could also be on for him to cease sooner somewhat than later. Apart from, now-Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe vice-president Kazuki Nakajima solely made it to 36 earlier than he needed to name time on his front-line profession.

Miyata's dominance in the TOM'S team spelled time for Alesi, and has put him on the cusp of the international stage

Picture by: Masahide Kamio

Miyata’s dominance within the TOM’S group spelled time for Alesi, and has put him on the cusp of the worldwide stage

After attending Le Mans and the next WEC spherical at Monza with Toyota, Miyata made his race debut at Fuji, as he was given Toyota’s blessing to affix the Kessel Racing Ferrari squad within the GTE Am class. Regardless of his whole unfamiliarity with the 488 GTE and Michelin tyres, he made a direct affect, main the group to a podium end, and he might properly have gained on his debut with out an engine difficulty.

Subsequent yr, Miyata appears to be like set to be one in every of two professional drivers within the ASP Lexus set-up alongside Jose Maria Lopez, a programme that sits neatly alongside his Tremendous Method title defence (though he should surrender racing in Tremendous GT). If Fuji is any information, he must be up to the mark shortly as he re-acquaints himself with the RC F GT3 that he spent two seasons racing within the GT300 ranks again in 2018-19, earlier than his step as much as GT500.

Miyata mentioned in his rookie Tremendous Method season that he was pissed off by no means to have had the possibility to race abroad, however now the chance has come – and he’s greater than able to profit from it

A conflict between the Bahrain WEC spherical and the Motegi Tremendous GT finale prevented Toyota from giving Miyata a tryout within the GR010 HYBRID LMH within the rookie check, however a primary run within the prototype appears to be like like a matter of time. And even when 2025 proves a yr too quickly, it will be no shock in any respect to see Miyata racing for outright Le Mans wins by 2026.

Miyata mentioned in his rookie Tremendous Method season that he was pissed off by no means to have had the possibility to race abroad, however now the chance has come – and he’s greater than able to profit from it. Throw the very fact Miyata is now eligible for a superlicence into the combo, together with the tantalising potentialities hinted at by Miyata’s Toyota stablemate Ryo Hirakawa getting a McLaren F1 reserve role, and there could also be no restrict to what he can obtain.

A podium on his debut in the WEC aboard unfamiliar machinery points to Miyata's potential for more international exploits

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

A podium on his debut within the WEC aboard unfamiliar equipment factors to Miyata’s potential for extra worldwide exploits

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