The cornerstone of Honda’s Super GT title show

By SUPER GT teams’ standards, Real Racing is a relatively recent innovation. While the Bridgestone/Honda Team Kunimitsu and ARTA have both been around since the 1990s, it wasn’t until 2007 that Team Katsutomo Kaneishi showed up, becoming Honda’s fifth GT500 team that season.

That year, she also ran small Honda driver Tsukakoshi in the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship, effectively starting a partnership that continues to this day.

After one season in Formula 3 Euro Series racing at Manor in 2008, Honda’s withdrawal from Formula 1 meant that Tsukakoshi returned to the Real fold in 2009 to race in both Formula Nippon and SUPER GT, and has remained there ever since, becoming a part no. Integral from the Kanechi process.

At the time, Real Madrid had never won the GT500 title, despite winning races and coming close to it on several occasions, but that may all be about to change this season as Tsukakushi and new teammate Nobuharu Matsushita head to the season finale next month at Motegi in strength. Title dispute.

Tsukakushi celebrates victory at Autopolis with Matsushita and team boss Kaneshi

Tsukakushi celebrates victory at Autopolis with Matsushita and team boss Kaneshi

Even in a championship where drivers tend to spend their entire careers with a single factory, Tsukakoshi’s tenure at Real Racing – 2022 marks his 14th season with the team – extraordinarily long. Honda teammate Takuya Aizawa, by contrast, who made his GT500 debut a year ago, was often on the move, spending no more than four seasons on any one team at a time.

Tsukakoshi admits how lucky he was to spend so much time on the team, and how compatible he was with Kaneishi, who took his place in the drivers’ seat in 2009, and explains that he doesn’t see himself racing anywhere else.

“It’s very rare,” says the 35-year-old. “There haven’t been any real discussions about me moving the teams. I’ve always been here and I think I want to stay here and work with Kaneishi-san until the end. I really want to win the championship with this team. But even if we could actually win it, I think I would still be here.” .

“It’s a special relationship I have with Kaneishi-san, we’ve had many good times and bad times together. So far we’ve come together and I think we both want to continue working with each other.

“Moving teams is tough, and while it’s hard to be in a position to stay in a team that you want to work with a lot for many years, I want to keep working and do my best to make the team think, ‘We need Tsukakushi.

Matsushita represents Tsukakoshi’s fifth different teammate in Real Racing after Kanechi’s younger cousin Toshihiro, with whom he took two title points in 2013, Hideki Mutoh, Takashi Kogure and Bertrand Baguette.

Tsukakoshi made a name for himself on the steering wheel of a Keihin-sponsored HSV-010 (pictured in 2010)

Tsukakoshi made a name for himself on the steering wheel of a Keihin-sponsored HSV-010 (pictured in 2010)

With Tsukakoshi and Baguette, Real Madrid re-emerged as a real threat to the title in 2020, as the duo won two races and led the standings for most of the season, but after a slight difficulty in 2021, the Belgian was dropped to make way for Matsushita who returned to the Honda fold after driving for Nissan last year. .

Tsukakoshi admits that he and Matsushita did several races to get the jelly off properly, with the added complexity of having to get used to a slightly different car with the NSX-GT’s Type S upgrade.

“This year, the car has changed and my teammate has changed, so I feel like things have changed a lot on the team this year,” Tsukakushi said when asked how he shared the cockpit with Matsushita.

Baguette already has a long racing history in the SUPER GT [with Nakajima Racing]he knows how to work, so it wasn’t a problem finding the setting we got together, and everything was just “comfortable”.

“On the other hand, Nobu is a very fast driver, but compared to the Baguette our driving styles are more different and it was hard to find the right setting. Last year he drove a different car and still lacks experience in the GT500, his way of doing things is completely different. So we had to adjust a lot this year.”

Tsukakushi and Baguette were a formidable duo at Real Madrid from 2019 to 21

Tsukakushi and Baguette were a formidable duo at Real Madrid from 2019 to 21

Arguably it wasn’t until Round 5 at Suzuka that the Tsukakoshi/Matsushita partnership really took off, with the pair losing the win only due to a refueling issue, and after losing a good opportunity in Sugo due to the weather, finally capturing what could be considered a late victory at Autopolis. To truly reignite the title challenge.

Tsukakushi hinted at the challenges he and Real Madrid faced this year following the win as he revealed that the team had had “heated discussions on the edge of controversy” about how to approach the weekend.

But whatever was decided was a success – now Tsukakushi and Matsushita are only four points from the top of the standings and are in a position to finally win the title over Motegi, whatever happens.

Winning the title with Real will surely put Tsukakoshi in a better position for the coming years as Honda considers its driver lineups.

Now the second oldest driver in NSX after Aizawa, Tsukakoshi holds one of the coveted Bridgestone/Honda seats, but unlike fellow A-drivers in Team Kunimitsu, ARTA, Naoki Yamamoto and Tomoki Nojiri, he is not racing in the Super Formula, having lost his seat full-time. Full after the riyal withdrew from the series at the end of 2019.

Tsukakoshi’s berth in Real is the seat countless young Honda drivers will love to have in the years to come. But the 35-year-old believes he still has his fate in his hands, as long as he continues to deliver results like this year.

“Of course there are many fast young drivers who want to drive with the strongest team possible,” Tsukakushi replied when asked if he feels pressure from his younger teammates at Honda. “But even in a situation like this, I want to do [Honda] I think it’s better if we have Tsukakushi, which is why I need to keep working hard and get results.

“I would say it’s not more about protecting my position than just doing the best I can and making the team want to keep me anyway.”

On whether he could see himself driving a car for a different team at the Honda stable, he hesitates before answering: “I’m not sure… I don’t want to think about it until that moment comes! I definitely intend to continue with this team.”

At the moment, odds are in favor of Tsukakushi’s link to Real that extends into the 15th consecutive season next year. It’s hard to say how many left after that, but it looks like it’s going to take something significant to break the almost unbreakable bond between the team and its undoubted first owner and driver.

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