“To compete internationally for victory” is the slogan adopted by Kazumichi Goh, founder of Team Goh, the highly successful Japan based international auto racing team. His wealth of experience stretches as far back as 1976 when he was involved in the Formula One World Championship, but by 1996 he had formed his own team with a view to competing successfully on the international scene.
Competing as Team Lark McLaren GTR and running a pair of McLaren F1 GTRs, the team won the All-Japan Grand Touring Championship a full 30 points clear of their nearest rival. The Drivers’ Championship became a battle within the team itself with both drivers dominating the top two places. 1996 also became the first year, and so far the only year, that a non-Japanese manufacturer has taken the GT500 crown, which historically has become an incredible achievement.
Team Goh had its first entry at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans with drivers Akihiko Nakaya, Keiichi Tsuchiya and Gary Ayles. The entry, Team Lark McLaren, competed in the LMGT1 category and the car was the McLaren F1 GTR, but unfortunately they were forced to retire from the race after just 87 laps
Two years later Team Goh again entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans this time in the LMP900 category with a former works BMW V12 driven by Hiro Matsushita, Hiroki Kato and Akihiko Nakaya. However, after 223 laps the team was to suffer another retirement. They also competed in the Fuji 1000km race finishing 3rd overall and 2nd in their class.
The following year, competing as TV Asahi Team Dragon, the team ran a pair of Panoz LMP1s at the 68th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was a collaboration with TV Asahi, a Japanese TV station covering the Le Mans event, and both cars finished in the top ten, the first in 6th with drivers Toshio Suzuki, Masami Kageyama and Masahiko Kageyama, and the other in 8th place overall with drivers Keiichi Tsuchiya, Akira Iida and Masahiko Kondo.
Competing as Audi Sport Japan Team Goh, the team ran an Audi R8 with drivers Hiroki Kato, Yannick Dalmas and Seji Ara at the 70th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Finishing in 7th place overall it was Team Goh’s third top-ten finish at this legendary event.
The following year, again competing with the Audi R8, but with Jan Magnussen joining Marco Werner and Seiji Ara in the driver line-up at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team finished just off the podium in 4th place overall. Team Goh also participated in the Spa 1000kms and the Le Mans 1000kms, the latter being the inaugural race for the Le Mans Endurance Series which commenced the following year, and they were successful in winning both races overall with drivers Seiji Ara and Tom Kristensen.
Overall victory with the Audi R8 at the 72nd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours race, this time with the Audi being driven by Seiji Ara, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello, saw Team Goh (Audi Sport Japan Team Goh) become the first Japanese privateer team to take an overall win at the world famous 24 hour endurance race. The average age of the team members at that time was only 25 years and they have all been contributing to the global motorsports industry ever since. The team also participated in the first Le Mans Endurance Series finishing the season with third place in the championship.
Five years later the team again returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this time as Navi Team Goh and focusing their efforts on the LMP2 Class by entering a Porsche RS Spyder with drivers Keisuke Kunimoto, Seji Ara and Sascha Maassen. They were successfully running second in their class when driver Seiji Ara suffered a large accident on the Mulsanne Straight forcing the car’s retirement in the final hour of the race.
After a ten year absence from the track the team returned to competition this time lining up on the SUPER GT300 grid as McLaren Customer Racing Japan. Having been appointed by McLaren Racing Cars as their official importer/distributor, the team ran a McLaren 720S GT3 driven by veteran Seiji Ara and Spanish newcomer, Alex Palou. The team suffered from severe Balance of Performance (BoP) restrictions imposed upon them throughout the season, consequently the team earned its only podium finish in the GT300 Class at the sixth round of the series in Autopolis finishing the race in 2nd place. However, in the final round at Motegi, Alex Palou not only took pole position, but broke the circuit’s lap record in doing so.