Kovalainen concedes defeat on Fuji Super GT opener

Kovalainen was as a result of be present for the curtain-raiser at Fuji Speedway on July 18-19 to drive for the SARD Toyota team alongside regular co-driver Yuichi Nakayama.

However, the Finn was one of several drivers forced to skip the pre-season test at the same track last week-end because of the rules that prevent travellers from 129 countries from having the ability to enter Japan, put in place due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Now Kovalainen has confirmed that time has run out for him to help you to show up for the Fuji opener, with little prospect of the entry restrictions being lifted in the future.

“I’ll miss the first race, I won’t be able to enter Japan,” the one-time grand prix winner, who’s currently in his indigenous Finland, told Motorsport.com. “We were hoping the restrictions will be eased in July however it hasn’t been the case, and so i have no choice but to miss the race.

“I really don’t know when I’ll be able to enter Japan; we thought July would have been OK however it wasn’t the case, so I’m unsure if August is going to be much better. I’m all set to go anytime and flights can be found easily, and so i can go whenever the restrictions open.

“Once I can travel to Japan, I will most likely stay there the rest of the year to make sure I’m around when our season is running.”

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Reigning SUPER GT champion Kenta Yamashita deputised for Kovalainen in last weekend’s Fuji test and will even replace the Finn for the curtain-raiser.

Yamashita, who was originally set to stop his SUPER GT programme this year to target on Super Formula and the FIA World Endurance Championship, set the fourth-fastest time of the test, a little over a tenth away from Honda pacesetter Tadasuke Makino.

Also set to miss out the Fuji opener is Real Racing Honda driver Bertrand Baguette, whose place at the test was taken by SUPER GT novice Yu Kanamaru.

#17 KEIHIN NSX-GT

Photo by: GTA

The absence of Kovalainen and Baguette will leave only four non-Japanese drivers in the GT500 division for the Fuji race: Nick Cassidy, Sacha Fenestraz (both TOM’S Toyota), Ronnie Quintarelli (NISMO Nissan) and Jann Mardenborough (Kondo Nissan). It marks the smallest amount of foreign drivers in SUPER GT/JGTC’s high class since 2000.

A spokesperson for series organiser GTA said that it “continues to make requests to the ministry in charge of the matter” when asked for an update by Motorsport.com on its efforts to secure an exemption to the entry rules for SUPER GT drivers and personnel.

In the GT300 class, the restrictions are set to force several drivers to miss the opener, including Nicki Thiim (D’station Aston Martin), Christopher Mies (Hitotsuyama Audi), Andre Couto and Dennis Lind (both JLOC Lamborghini), all of whom were absent for the test.

While JLOC has designated third drivers for each car ready to part of, D’station and Hitotsuyama ran with only 1 driver each at Fuji – Tomonobu Fujii and Shintaro Kawabata respectively – and it remains to be viewed who would be nominated to become listed on them.

The Panther arto Team Thailand Lexus squad meanwhile missed the test entirely due to the travel restrictions, and is likewise in danger of maybe not being able to race at Fuji this month. The other GT300 car absent from the test, the R’Qs Motor Sports Mercedes, is understood to own not been present as a result of financial dilemmas.