- Tokyo Auto Salon is the largest aftermarket and performance automotive event in Japan, and it returned to Makuhari Messe this past January for its 41st annual show.
- OEM exhibitors like Nissan, Honda, and Toyota displayed their latest performance cars, accessories, and a wide range of motorsport builds.
- The biggest headliner of TAS belonged to Honda who revealed an FL5 Civic Type R concept that will replace the NSX in the 2024 season of Super GT.
- In the RAYS booth, race team apr took the covers off its new Lexus LC500h, which will replace the current Prius race car in the Super GT GT300 class.
AUTO SALON RECAP
To say there’s a lot of dope stuff to see at Tokyo Auto Salon is an understatement. I spent nearly every available hour of the three-day aftermarket-focused show combing the halls of Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, to check out the 600+ vehicles on display. I welcome you to visit my first recap of the 2023 show, which highlights some of the more underrated builds.
Now it’s time to shift gears and shed light on two mega motorsport stories: the Super GT Civic Type R and Lexus LC500h. Even though Super GT has no official presence in the United States, a true sports car lover can still appreciate the magnitude of these two unveilings.
SUPER GT IN A NUTSHELL
Super GT (Grand Touring) is Japan’s most prestigious form of endurance road racing and is what I grew up idolizing in car magazines through the ‘90s and ‘00s. It began as the Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC) and, despite the name change, is still more or less based on production-built sports cars. As ever, teams of two drivers aim to cross the finish line first in a grueling wheel-to-wheel battle that typically lasts between 300 and 450 kilometers. Today’s Super GT is broken up into two classes: GT300 and GT500. Class names originally came from horsepower limits, but those rules are long gone; now, GT300 and GT500 entries approach 550hp and 650hp respectively.
Although competitors in the GT500 class are virtually prototype racecars, you can still clearly make out their production counterparts. The field is all OEM-supported: Toyota with the GR Supra, Honda with the NSX, and Nissan with the Z.
By contrast, GT300 runners can either be factory-backed or privateers. Vehicles are limited more in aero and downforce but still haul major ass. I find GT300 a bit more fun to watch. There are 10+ more teams competing, the cars more closely resemble their OEM counterparts, and there’s also much more diversity in the field: Lamborghini, Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW, and Audi race alongside the Japanese makes.
CIVIC TYPE R-GT
As an American journalist visiting Japan, it’s not the easiest thing to figure out which press conferences to attend, let alone how to navigate your way there or understand what the speaker is saying when you finally arrive. So, while I was perusing the other end of the convention center, my social media started blowing up about how Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) had just pulled the covers off the baddest Civic Type R concept. Bummed I didn’t know beforehand, I still made my way to the Honda booth where a sea of photographers and Honda fans crowded the elevated debut platform.
There, the CTR’s extreme aero and silhouette looked remarkable, yet still retained a strong sense of the road-going Type R. Unlike the standard car, this particular 180-mph-capable Super GT Civic won’t be running the factory-issued FWD layout; it will be driven by the rear-wheels and push 650+hp from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Regardless of stats, the Type R-GT will surely make everyone a fan of the latest generation FL5. Unfortunately, we won’t be watching it on TV this year, but it will replace the NSX-GT Type S in 2024.
While the new Civic Type R-GT welcomed swarms of Honda fans each day, there was another Super GT newsmaker in the RAYS booth that would undoubtedly melt the hearts of anyone with an affinity for the Lexus brand. Raised on a platform at the center of the booth was their new GT300 entry: the #31 apr Lexus LC500h. I’ve been a huge advocate for the Lexus LC coupe and have been waiting for a legit race version of the car as its sleek body lines deserve to be more than just an old man’s sunny day cruiser.
Like the Type R-GT, the LC500h isn’t exactly factory spec. It won’t be running the OEM 3.5-liter V6 hybrid powertrain, but instead, the outgoing Toyota Prius’s 5.4-liter 2UR-GSE V8 that utilizes a capacitor-driven hybrid motor. Gears are selected via a six-speed sequential gearbox.
MEMORIES OF FUJI
As a JDM car fan, Super GT is something that brings out a special enthusiasm. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a race once in my life at Fuji Speedway. It isn’t as baller and bougie of a spectacle as Formula One, but it feels more grassroots. You can feel the profound passion from the fans who are there to support their favorite manufacturer and race team. I felt connected as a long-time Toyota/Lexus owner watching the 86 and RC F fly down Fuji’s 1.475km long straight. The latest Super GT unveilings from Honda and Lexus go a long way to create that excitement again — well beyond what happens on the track — and bring out the joy in the brand’s devoted followers.