IPS “Jinba Ittai Academy’s” Mushitani grabs first win
The final round of the season began on Saturday afternoon at Fuji Speedway. The day began with dry weather and so all cars started with slick tires. However, the weather took a turn and it began to rain during the formation lap, immediately bringing about wet conditions. In the #55, Yasunori Mushitani started from 3rd in class and remained on the track even as his rivals went into the pits to change tires due to the rain. After that, the road surface conditions did not improve, but Mushitani endured the tough conditions and completed the 12 laps at the top of his class. Mushitani stated, “The noise coming over the radio was so bad that I couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t know what position I was in and just continued driving while searching the road surface for grip. I realized after finishing that I finished at the top of my class. These were pretty tough conditions so being able to stand in the middle of the podium felt pretty good, I can tell you.”
In the 6th race held on the following day, Mushitani’s #55 started from the front, following behind the expert class’ #32. The road surface was wet due to rain that fell the previous night, and so all cars were riding on rain tires. As the race progressed after starting behind the lead of the safety car, the road surface gradually began to dry, but Mushitani calmly assessed the situation. Although he initially lost one position, he continued to tick off laps while holding back other rivals approaching from behind, and finished 2nd in class. This made it two podiums for him for the weekend. Kenta Yamashita, a professional class driver who shares the #55 car stated, “The rainy conditions were difficult and running on rain tires was rough in the second half due to rapidly losing grip but Mushitani made no mistakes. He remained calm even as rivals were side-by-side with him. I think it was a very good performance.”
The fifth race of the Professional Class that Yamashita competed in was held under dry, cloudy conditions, where #32 Sho Tsuboi, #55 Yamashita and #16 Ronnie Quintarelli engaged in a three-car battle for the top spot. The #32 managed to come out on top, while Yamashita finished 2nd. In the 6th round, which was held immediately afterwards, the #32 cut a good start and pulled away from the rest of the pack. #96 Yuichi Nakayama, gradually moved up the order and emerged in 2nd position, opening up a gap with Yamashita. Although there were some strong challenges, Yamashita defended 3rd place and made it to the podium. “It was a disappointing result. There were a few issues and the car struggled for pace. At the end of the race, I had to really push to hold onto 3rd place.” Yamashita stated with a disappointed expression.
On the 20th, the Legend Cup race, driven by legend drivers from the past, was held and former Mazda contract driver Yojiro Terada was an entry. This race, with 17 legend drivers of between 61 to 85 years old, was a one-make race for West Racing Cars VITA (an open race car with a 1.5-liter NA midship mounted engine). At the talk show held before the race, Terada along with Satoru Nakajima and Naoki Nagasaka, who once belonged to Shonan Mazda and were active in the Savanna RX-3, Masanori Sekiya, and others who started racing activities at Shizuoka Mazda in the past, excitedly spoke about touring car races that boiled over with action at Fuji Speedway.
The final race started from 3:40pm and drivers began in the order of age. 72-year-old Terada started from 10th, and moved up to 4th, eventually passing the checkered flag in 10th place, the same as his starting position. Terada stated, “The car I borrowed was a completely new car. I think it still needed a lot of fine tuning. Many of the participating drivers are of an advanced age and it seemed like some watching were a little concerned, but these guys were all skilled drivers. There were no contacts or crashes, making this event a huge success. It was really fun.”
Text by MZRacing, Photos by MZRacing and T. Ishida