NOPRO Demio Grabs Season First Victory
Murakami Roadster Secures ST-5 Championship
Round 5 of the Super Taikyu, the 10 Hours of Fuji, was held on September 3rd (Sun) at Fuji Speedway and a total of eight Mazda entries competed in the ST-3, ST-4, and ST-5 classes. The #37 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Yutaka Seki / Go Umeda / Kaoru Ijiri) came out on top of a hard fought ST-5 class battle to take their season first victory while the #88 Murakami Motors Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami / Takeshi Wakitani / Masanobu Kato / Keiji Amemiya) finished 2nd and secured this year’s championship in the same class.
Under an overcast sky the 10-hour race started at 8:00am on Sunday morning. With all eyes focused on the ST-5 class, the #22 BOMEX Roadster (Katsuhiko Tsutsui / Junichirou Yamashita / Koji Yamanishi / Takahiro Tanaka) leapt out from its 3rd place grid position and pulled into the lead early on. GT driver, Yamanishi began to pull away from the rest of the pack but unfortunately made contact with a different class machine and was forced into the pits. Repairs ate up a significant amount of time and took them out of the fight for the top spot. From that point the battle for the lead unfolded between the #66 odula Demio 15MB (Ric Hashimoto / Ryuichiro Ohtsuka / Takayuki Takechi / Takashi Nishiyama) and the pole sitter, #88 Murakami Roadster. However, the #37 NOPRO Demio that was running just to their rear went on to snatch the lead through refuel timing. With not only good fuel economy but also a fast lap pace, the rest of the competition was left to watch the #37 NOPRO Demio run alone in the top spot. From then, their trouble and error free racing, combined with smooth pit work, saw the #37 NOPRO Demio achieve its first season victory. The tenaciousness of Team NOPRO was once again on display. Team representative Toshihiko Nogami related, “It’s great we were able to move into the lead through our pit timing. Due to our car’s fuel efficiency, we were able to run for more laps than our rivals and so, although we lacked in rapid acceleration, I thought that as long as we maintained a consistent pace we had a chance of taking away victory. I really think the complete lack of technical troubles and mistakes is was bore out this result for us.” Rookie, Umeda, who joined the team from this year went on to say, “Although I had a hard time getting used to the car at the beginning of the season, everyone in the team built up a good car and I was finally able to demonstrate my abilities. I’m really happy with this win.”
As for the #88 Murakami Roadster that has secured 4 consecutive pole positions this season, it was pushed out of the top group and dropped down the order early in the race. Although it went on to recover afterwards, it was handed a 60-second pit stop penalty for pitting in during a safety car run and then subsequently dealt a drive-through for exceeding the speed limit in pit lane and this pushed them further behind. This was compounded with power steering issues but they continuing to fight throughout the race and Kato took the wheel of the for the last stint, heading out onto the course in 2nd place. From there he gradually reduced the gap with the #37 NOPRO to within 40 seconds. However, that would be the extent of their fight back. They passed the checkered flag in 2nd with the sunset approaching at 6:00pm and this put the four Murakami drivers onto the podium. Having taken 3 victories this season, this result secured the ST-5 class championship for the Murakami Motors team and they could be seen ecstatically celebrating in the pits.
The #50 LOVE DRIVE Roadster (Marie Iwaoka / Hiroko Komatsu / Anna Inozume / Yumiko Sekizaki) that competed in the ST-5 class spun out in the first 30 minutes. This saw them make contact with a machine running to their rear and they were forced to bring their car back into the garage to repair the damage. The #66 doula Demio 15MB was also forced into the pits with a gearbox malfunction and the #2 BOMEX Roadster also spent a lot of time in the garage as well. However, both cars were able to return to the course after carrying out repairs and completed the race. The #54 TC CORSE Roadster (Teruaki Kato / Yuui Tsutsumi / Masanobu Komiya / Masaki Koiso) was putting in a good fight for class 5th-6th but had to drop out to repair some brake troubles and they passed the checkered flag 24 laps behind the race leader.
The #17 NOPRO Axela SKY-D (Tatsuya Tanigawa / Tatsuya Nogami / Toshihiko Nogami) that went into this round with a completely new image, sporting a new body kit and painted with soul-red paint, arrived at the circuit having completed significant improvements in engine cooling performance. As a result, they were able to race trouble free for the entire 10 hours and finish in ST-3 class 7th place. Representative Nogami went on to state, “We’ve confirmed that the cooling enhancements and new body kit have achieved more than enough performance improvements. We will continue to make adjustments to further improve performance. The Axela SKY-D will only become faster so please keep an eye out for us in the following races.”
Photos and Text by MZRacing