Hirakawa and New Zealand’s Nick Cassidy will take on 14 other teams in the GT500 edition which gets underway on April 9 at the Okayama International Circuit – the first of eight races through until November 12.
Hirakawa finished ninth in the 2016 championship, partnered with Briton James Rossiter, while Cassidy claimed fifth alongside Daisuke Ito.
The duo will get the chance to challenge for more podiums this season in a powerful new car that is an upgrade on the Lexus RC F used since 2014.
It was unveiled with Hirakawa in attendance together with a unique Japanese decorative truck known as a Decotora.
What is Super GT?
Super GT is Japan’s most prestigious motorsport event featuring heavily-modified touring production cars that are capable of both high speeds and long distances.
GT500 and GT300 class explained
The GT500 edition sees two drivers per team undertake each race in closed cockpit cars that are produced by the big three Japanese manufacturers, while the GT300 edition is open to domestic and overseas manufacturers.
GT500 class cars come with clear/white headlights, car numbers and decals, while GT300 are distinguished by the colour yellow.
Points and weight handicap
Driver points are awarded to the top-10 finishers in each race, with a weight handicap assigned to cars according to the points they scored in the previous race – creating an intense battle for the title.
Super GT employs a rolling start to initiate a race.
Unlike F1, which adopts a standing start with cars remaining stationary on the grid, Super GT races start with cars already in motion.
All cars follow the lead/safety car in qualifying order, maintaining speed and position, until the safety car leaves the track and the starting signal turns green.
Since overtaking is not allowed until you have passed the start line, the drivers attempt to overtake all at once along the first corner. Don’t miss the scramble as they vie for the best position!
Super GT is also held in Thailand
Super GT currently covers the nation with one leg in Thailand. The domestic rounds take place all in the prestigious circuits, and the Thai round is in another Tilke-designed track Buriram United International. The globalisation expands Super GT’s fan base not only within Japan, but further afield.