20-year old Tsutsumi Becomes Party Race II’s Last Champion
This year’s NC1 / NC2 series has garnered a great deal of attention since the opening round due to the appearance of some formidable rookie drivers. One of these drivers is Tsuyoshi Umeda, who drove for the Yojiro Terada led “Team TERRAMOS,” and the other was Tsutsumi. Having been brought up through kart racing, this Tsutsumi has only just recently entered university. These two young drivers flew into this year’s party race like a pair of meteors and can be said to have enlivened the series. A special race was held at Fuji Speedway prior to the opening round where, in his debut race, Umeda shocked the crowd by achieving a lights-to-flag victory. Then in the opening round at SUGO, TCR’s new star, Tsutsumi came out on top of a battle with Umeda to achieve his own lights-to-flag win. In round 2 at Tsukuba Umeda would start from 4th but weaved through the veterans in front to be in the fight for the lead. He fiercely pursued pole sitter Tsutsumi but couldn’t quite catch him and the race ultimately ended in a 2-round winning streak for the TCR’s young driver. However, in round 3 at Okayama International Circuit, Umeda, along with fellow Team TERRAMOS compatriot Yuki Kamakura, achieved a 1-2 finish, with Tsutsumi following behind in 3rd. Umeda went on to also win round 4 at Tsukuba with Tsutsumi once again finishing 3rd. Although this put Umeda at the top of the rankings, there was only a slight point difference between the two rookies and either of the two would take the title if they won in the final round.
November 22nd was met with fair racing conditions with a cloudy sky and slightly cool temperature. Tsutsumi re-wrote the course record in official qualifying to be sitting at the top of the leader board. However, Umeda was not to be outdone and recorded a phenomenal time that bested this new record. Just as qualifying was coming to a close, Tsutsumi went back out onto the track but found himself caught in traffic and could not outdo this time. With this Umeda secured pole position.
The final race was contested in 15 laps. Pole sitter, Umeda dashed out of the grid and attempted to pull away from the rest of the competition but Tsutsumi remained hot on his heels and prevented him from building up a lead. However opportunities to overtake were scarce and Tsutsumi struggled to make a move. Umeda later stated, “He was right on my tail the whole time, it was a little frustrating.” On the other hand Tsutsumi related, “I was told that if I was patient an opportunity would definitely present itself.” That opportunity came at lap 12 at the exit to the second hairpin. Umeda would make an unfortunate gearshift mistake and Tsutsumi, not missing a beat, used this less than 1-second loss to accelerate at full pace past his opponent on the straight to take the lead. After that, Umeda would desperately chase Tsutsumi from the rear, but a chance to regain his position did not present itself and Tsutsumi passed the checkered flag in 1st. With this victory Tsutsumi became the NC Roadster Party Race II’s last champion.
After the race Tsutsumi stated, “I lost to Umeda in Qualifying so I drove the entire time racking my brain for a way to overtake him. Although he gave me almost no opening I did not let that one chance slip out of my grasp. Taking 3 wins and now the championship, this has been a great season for me.”
On this day the mixed 22-car final round for the NC Clubman series and NB series, the Mazda Fan Endurance (“Maz-Tai”) was also held. Congratulations go out to NC Clubman winter, Takuya Ishikawa and NB series winner Yuichi Okamoto. The Maz-Tai saw the veteran WW2 Roadster Team magnificently overwhelm the opposition and take victory. Competing in his 30th race on this day, Kiyohide Okazawa, who drove in the NB series was awarded the Great Party Racer Award. Mazda Women in Motorsport project member Hiroko Komatsu competed in the NC1 series and placed 5th. Another member, Akiyo Sato drove in the NC Clubman race and completed the race in 6th.
Roadster Party Race Ⅱ official site
Mazda Fan Endurance (“Maz-Tai”) official site
Photo by MZRacing