S-Tai Completes Official Testing for 24 Hours of Fuji
The 24 Hours of Fuji, now in its sixth year, is the only 24-hour race in Japan and the longest race format among the S-Series endurance races. The popularity of the race has been increasing year by year due to the participation of five Japanese automobile manufacturers, including Mazda, in the race. Fuji Speedway also offers a popular plan that allows spectators to enjoy camping and barbeques while watching the 24-hour race.
The event is also important for teams to aim for the annual championship because of the large number of series points earned, which are allocated based on race time and distance. Mazda vehicles have won the ST-5 class in each of the past five events held to date.
In response to the massive fire at the Hankook Tire plant, the Super Taikyu Organization (STO) announced that Bridgestone, which is scheduled to become the tire supplier from 2024, will urgently supply dry tires from the next race, the Fuji 24 Hour Race. However, some classes were unable to receive the tires in time, and machines in the ST-5 and ST-4 classes had to run with the production POTENZA radial tires. Due to the sudden change in the middle of the season, all teams were busy with various data collection for the final race, as well as suspension and brake checks.
TEAM NOPRO entered Car 17 Demio Diesel (Tsugutetsu Nishizawa, Tobio Otani, Misaki Konishi, Toshihiko Nogami, Hiroaki Yamamoto, Junichi Uematsu) and Car 37 DE Demio (Yoshikou Kato, Tatsuya Nogami, Toru Ogura) in the test. Fuji 24 Hours in 2020 and 2022. In addition, Car 17 Demio Diesel recorded the top time in the ST-5 class in all of the three official sessions set this time. Car 88 Murakami Motors (Hiroyuki Murakami/Soichiro Yoshida/Ayahei Arioka/Eiji Amemiya), with its distinctive orange liveries, is a team from Ehime Prefecture that has won two consecutive championships in 2018, the first year of the Fuji 24 Hour Race, and the following year in 2019. They won last season in Okayama and this year’s season opener in Suzuka, and this year, with the addition of young drivers, they will take on the Fuji 24 Hour Race in good form. OVER DRIVE participated in the test with two cars: Car 65 (Shuichiro Sotozono/Tatsuya Ota/Hirohito Ito/Eiji Niwa), an ND Roadster, and Car 66 (Kosei Nukido/Kyosuke Inomata/Takahisa Ohno), a Roadster RF. Car 66, which has been competing in the ST-4 class since this season, has been working on solving issues and making updates since the opening round at Suzuka, and seemed to be getting a solid response from the team at this test. All eyes will be on the evolved Roadster RF to see how it will compete with the GR86.
No. 120 Club MAZDA SPIRIT RACING ROADSTER (Noriyuki Higuchi, Haruhiko Sugino, Shohei Oda, Takuya Minowa, Junji Ueda, Yoichi Kikuchi) is a vehicle for drivers who have achieved high results in the grassroots category sponsored by Mazda, to step up and challenge the S-Tai race. This is the first 24-hour race challenge. The drivers have been steadily improving their abilities through private tests, and they drove the car until the end of the official test, which was held at night.
In the ST-Q class, which is a proving ground for automobile manufacturers, Car 55 “MAZDA SPIRIT RACING MAZDA3 Bio concept” was also driven in the sports driving quota to familiarize the driver and collect driving data. In addition, the team has been conducting daily tests before and after the official tests in order to improve not only the speed and power, but also the reliability of the car in the grueling 24-hour race. In addition to regular drivers Kazuhiro Terakawa, Kaoru Ijiri, Yutaka Seki, and Ikuo Maeda, two professional drivers, Yutake Tsutsumi and Ryohei Sakaguchi, will join the team as assistant drivers for the 24-hour race. Tsutsumi won the series championship in the Roadster Party Race and the GLOBAL MX-5 CUP JAPNAN, and then achieved the Race 1 victory in the 2018 GLOBAL MAZDA MX-5 CUP CHALLENGE held in the United States. After that, he continued his career in domestic one-make races, and is currently a driver competing in SUPER GT, the top category in Japan. This was my first time to drive a front-wheel drive (FF) race car. I consider it a valuable experience to be able to ride in a 24-hour race under a well-developed team of drivers including Mr. Maeda, as well as the manufacturer’s engineers and elite mechanics. We will work as one team to make sure that we can drive until the checkered flag, and I personally hope to beat the time in the ST-4 class.
The Fuji 24 Hour Race will be held on May 26th (Fri) for the Official Qualifying and the Race will start on May 27th (Sat).
Text & Photos by MZRacing