SUPER GT 2023 Opening Round at Okayama: Igor Omura Fraga Makes His Super GT Debut!
Igor Omura Fraga made his much anticipated Super GT debut in Round 1 of the SUPER GT Series held at the Okayama International Circuit on April 15 and 16. The Super GT is one of the most popular race series in Japan that feature production-based GT race cars divided into two categories: GT500 and GT300.
Challenging the SUPER GT with experience gained from international competition
Igor Fraga had participated in the European FIA-F3 championships as a part of the Red Bull Jr. Team until 2020. In the same year, he also won the series championship of the Toyota Racing Series. In 2022, he moved to Japan to pursue racing opportunities there.
"In the fall of last year, I wasn’t able to solidify my activities for 2023, and I was concerned about what to do. But it just so happened that a friend I made through Gran Turismo introduced me to ANEST IWATA Racing, and all of a sudden things started going in to motion."
Igor Omura Fraga was born in Kanazawa city of the Ishikawa Prefecture on September 26, 1998. His father is Brazilian and his mother, a second-generation Japanese-Brazilian. Being a passionate automotive enthusiast, his father wanted his son to race, so until Igor grew old enough to drive a go-kart, he was encouraged to practice driving on Gran Turismo 3 from the tender age of three.
On GT3, Igor learned the basics of using the steering wheel, throttle and brakes. In a few years, he was ready to go kart-racing, but at the same time, he continued to hone his virtual driving skills on Gran Turismo. Igor raced in both the real and virtual worlds simultaneously, becoming phenomenally proficient at both.
"Last year when I went to see ANEST IWATA Racing for the first time, I was surprised to find that there was someone who remembered me from my racing kart days. There were also people who know that I became a champion in the FIA Gran Turismo Championships, and had very high regards for me. The story progressed from there, and I was able to acquire a seat to compete in the 2023 Super GT Series and the Super Formula Lights championship."
Fraga competes in the SUPER GT 300 Class
For the 2023 season, Fraga signed with ANEST IWATA Racing, a new team in the GT300 class. Fraga’s teammates at ANEST IWATA are Yuga Furutani (2nd driver)—who raced in the Super Formula Lights until 2022, and the title winner of the 2022 Formula Regional Japanese Championship—and Miki Koyama (3rd driver.) This is a totally fresh team with Fraga, Furutani, and Koyama all being rookies in the Super GT.
Driving the opening round was Fraga and Furutani in the ANEST IWATA Racing RC F GT3. Based on the Lexus RC F production sports coupe, this race car was modified to conform to FIA-GT3 regulations. In addition to frame reinforcements for high-speed driving and significant suspension tuning, it also features large over-fenders and other aero parts.
Aiming to win with teammates Miki Koyama (centre) and Yuga Furutani (right)
The Fraga and Furutani driver combo of the opening race
A chaotic turn of events in the SUPER GT debut race
Bad weather plagued the opening round of the Super GT Series—Fraga’s first race in Japan. The official qualifying session on Saturday took place in difficult wet weather conditions, but ANEST IWATA Racing managed to secure a decent grid position of 7th in the GT300 class. The team was in a good place in its debut race because the top finishers of each race were awarded points.
During the final race on Sunday, the weather turned from bad to worse. With the two drivers required to share equal time behind the wheel—a Super GT regulation—Furutani began the race under rainy skies. This was followed by a downpour that led to a few incidents on the track, prompting a full-course yellow and the appearance of the safety car.
The team had initially thought that the rain would lighten up, but it came down even heavier. Because of this, the team's tire change strategy did not go according to plan, and this led to a loss of positions.
The rain stopped at one point, but when Fraga took over for the second half of the race, it came down again. This resulted in another full course yellow and the appearance of the safety car. Ultimately, the race was called due to bad weather. Unfortunately for Fraga, he was unable to take back any of the lost positions before the premature end of the race.
ANEST IWATA Racing finished the final race in 12th place, unable to take away any championship points. Fraga— having completed the opening round of the Super GT under chaotic race conditions—said after the race:
"Of course I wanted to drive more. In this race, in the end I was only able to drive around 10 laps. Ultimately, it turned out that the teams who took a gamble with their strategy in the changing conditions gained the advantage. For me, it was the first time back in racing after two and a half years, and I am very happy to have been able to make my racing debut in my mother’s home country. And, I am happy to have been able to safely complete the difficult race. But the complex weather caused the race to be stopped early, and we were not able to acquire the desired points, so I do have mixed feelings about the results. I’m hoping we can really drive all out in the second round at Fuji Speedway on May 3 and 4.”