Japanese driver Yuki Nemoto first came to Europe in 2017 as a fresh-faced graduate from single seaters with some limited sportscar racing experience. On the eve of the International GT Open season four years later, he has developed into one of the most talented and promising young drivers in the GT world.
Although the 2020 racing season was far from ideal for almost everyone in motorsport, for Nemoto, it was something of a breakthrough year. Teaming up with Finnish driver Tuomas Tujula, he picked up the Italian GT Championship Sprint Cup title at the final round of the campaign at Vallelunga aboard a Vincenzo Sospiri run Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo.
For 2021, Nemoto continues the relationship with VS Racing as part of a formidable two-car line-up for the Italian team in GT Open.
Nemoto partners Belgian Baptiste Moulin, while the #63 car will be piloted by Frederick Schandorff and Michele Beretta.
So, what are the ambitions for Nemoto ahead of his first season on the international stage?
“Of course, winning the championship is always my goal but I understand that this is my first year in an International GT3 series so I will be up against very experienced drivers."
“Last year I was racing just in Italy and I know the circuits very well which was a big help."
“This year there will be some new tracks for me, but I am very focused on learning and improving and working towards my future with Lamborghini.”
Nemoto has been a loyal member of the Lamborghini and VS Racing family since he made his GT debut in 2016. And as he explains, the decision to forge a new career with Sospiri was straightforward.
“I was racing in Japanese FIA-F4 in 2015 and team VSR was collaborating with two drivers in the same team I was racing with,” Nemoto explains.
“I wanted to go to Europe because it is the place where motorsport began, and Vincenzo really liked my driving and invited me to come to Italy to test his Lamborghinis."
“A year later Vincenzo asked me to come and race in the Italian GT Cup with Lamborghini to help my friend Nicolas Costa to win the Championship. I totally fell in love with driving the Lamborghini – a proper, beautiful Italian beast!”
If Nemoto enjoyed the power and handling of the 5.2-litre V10 Huracán then, he surely fell deeper in love with it following a stunning Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals debut at Imola at the backend of 2017, where he recorded victory in the second race.
Two seasons in Super Trofeo Asia followed thereafter, and following the culmination of the 2019 World Finals at Jerez de la Frontera, Nemoto was eager for more and duly stepped into a full season of Italian GT the next year.
“My best memory was winning the second race of the World Final at Imola in 2017,” he says.
“Throughout the season we were always very fast, but we had some bad luck and didn’t always get the results we should have had. In the final race of the World Final, we won, and it was brilliant as it was the hardest and most competitive race of the season We finished as Vice-Champions which made me very proud."
“My highlights from last year were the Mugello race where I took the pole in my qualifying session. Of course, winning the race is always the best thing, but pole is also very important as it shows that you are the fastest driver on the track."
“The final race at Vallelunga was a real rollercoaster of emotions. We went into the race leading the Championship and just had to take it easy to finish in the points. I handed the car over to my team-mate after my stint in a good position but unfortunately, he put the car in the gravel. the championship in the end. It was a disappointing way to end the Championship and we didn’t know we had won until the chequered flag and we saw how many points our rivals had claimed in the race. It was very emotional but when I stood on the top of the podium for the Championship celebration, it was a really special feeling - my first Championship win in GT3, in Europe and with Lamborghini and VSR.”
At still just 23 years old, Nemoto has what many of us don’t have on their side, youth. He is a member of the Lamborghini GT3 Junior Driver Program and like so many, has factory driver status in his mind.
A long way from watching his childhood hero Takuma Sato take on the mighty Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso in Formula One, with his father – also a passionate motorsport fan.
“When I was young, I watched a lot of motorsport because my Dad liked it and the Japanese Formula 1 racer Takuma Sato san was always there. I really admire him. Not only was he a good racing driver but he is also an important personality for Japanese motorsport."
Perhaps it was seeing the effect of a fellow Japanese driver performing on the world stage which served as inspiration for Nemoto to take the plunge and move to Europe. One thing is for sure, it was a move which has reaped the rewards ever since.
“At the beginning of 2017 it was really hard as I had to travel all over Europe from Japan which was a big challenge for me at the start. But after a while I started to enjoy the travel and the opportunity to see different cities and experience different cultures,” Nemoto says.
“I was really lucky that from the beginning I was with the right team and made good friends not just with the team but also the drivers I was competing with, so I never felt that the cultural differences were too important.”