After Close S-Tai ST-5 Motegi Race, Demio Takes 2nd and Roadster 3rd
Motegi on this day was blessed with fine weather and felt like a summer’s day with a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius right from the morning. Near noon, when the 5-hour race began, the sunlight was intense, and the temperature exceeded 30 degrees. Under these conditions a total of 52 S-Tai machines, including 5 ST-2 class cars, 11 ST-4 class, and 10 ST-5 class vehicles got off to a clean start.
The #17 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Tatsuya Nogami / Tatsuya Tanigawa / Tobio Otani / Toshihiko Nogami) started from 5th in the ST-2 class and Tanikawa took the wheel for the start. With several rivals falling back, after 1 hour, they moved up to 2nd in class. In the ST-4 class the #54 TC CORSE Roadster RF (Akira Kato / Kenichi Ohara / Yuya Hiraki) saw Kato leap out of class 10th and move up to 6th at the beginning of the race. Afterwards, after changing to Hiraki, the car stopped between just after leaving the pits at the first corner and this resulted in a FCY (Full Course Yellow). But, afterwards, the engine restarted and they returned to the race. In the ST-5 class, the #78 LOVE DRIVE RACING roadster’s Yamanishi started from 7th place and moved into 2nd in the early stages to be following behind the pole sitter #4 Fit while fighting off a challenge from the #4 to its rear. They were followed by the #37 NOPRO Demio SKY-D, which was the top in Q1 qualifying, the #101 Hiromatsu Demio (Yoichiro Shinichiro / Kota Sasaki / KENBOW), the #88 Murakami Motors Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami / Yasunori Nakajima / Naoki Yamatani / Taro Sugaya). After 1 hour and 20 minutes, the #78 passed the leading Fit and took the lead. From then on the #4 Fit, the #78 and #37 carried out a close quarters battle and, after 3 hours, the #37 Demio SKY-D moved into the top spot, while the #101 Demio ƒell slightly behind. The driver complained of a gearbox malfunction.
The turning point came at 16:35, with 30 minutes remaining in the race. To clear the mandatory driver change number, each team headed into the pits. The #78, which was running in the lead, pitted in to change from Yamanishi to Osaki. Subsequently, the #4 also entered the pits. In the meantime, the #37 moved back to the top again. However, their A driver change pit stop was required in the closing stages. When Ijiri switched to Seki, their advantage was 40 seconds. But, at the time of pitting-out, they relinquished their position to the #4 and #78 and fell back by 10 seconds. However, Seki concentrated on narrowing the gap at a high pace. First, he caught the #78 and moved up to 2nd place. Then, he pursued the #4, reducing the difference to 3.3 seconds, before the checkered flag was flown.
“We misjudged our driver change timing. Also, we weren’t worried about fuel consumption, so we should have been able to attack the pace a little more. The #17 also grabbed a podium with 3rd place in the ST-2 class, and the #37 entered got 2nd place making it a double podium, but I think the #37 could have won the race. So it’s a little disappointing,” said team representative Toshihiko Nogami.
LOVE DRIVE RACING took 3rd in the ST-5 class, grabbing the team’s first podium. Yamanishi, who continued to drive in the scorching heat for a long time, went straight to the doctor’s office with dehydration after the driver change. Osaki, who was experienced her first podium in her S-Tai debut year, stated “We were running in the top due to Yamanishi’s effort but unfortunately we missed out on victory. But it was a very good experience for me. Also, we got the team’s first podium so I’m happy to have been able to contribute to that. I want to aim for the first victory next race.”
In the other ST-5 class, the #88 Murakami Motors finished 4th, while the #101 that was sitting at 2nd in the rankings finished in 6th place but still has the potential of taking the series championship. The #66 odula roadster (Riku Hashimoto / Takayuki Takeji / Katsuhiko Tsutsui / Takafumi Katsuki) finished 7th and the #50 LOVE DRIVE RACING (Marie Iwaoka / Hiroko Komatsu / Sayaka Kato / Junko Fujii) finished 9th. Also, the ST-4 class #54 TC Corse Roadster RF finished 9th in class. All eight Mazda cars completed the race.
This year’s Super Taikyu Series final round will be held over November 9th to 10th at the Okayama International Circuit.
Motegi 5 Hour Race Digest Video (YouTube 4’41 ”)
Text and Photos by MZRacing