Hiromatsu Demio, NOPRO Axela take class 2nd place in S-Tai SUGO
Official qualifying was held on the morning of the 27th under incessant rain that continued from the previous night, and the Hiromatsu Demio managed to grab pole position in class. The rain then eased, and by the time the teams lined up on the starting grid for the Group 2 (ST-4 / ST-5 class) race, the road surface was completely dry. Sasaki, in the #101 Hiromatsu Demio took charge of the start and engaged in a fierce battle with the Fits, which had superior horsepower. In the early stages, although their rivals were able to take the lead, after two FCYs (full course yellows), Sasaki kept the competition close before handing the wheel over to Yoshida. The biggest drama happened at the end of the race. While the pace of the top two Fits began to ease off, the Demio’s anchor, Sasaki overtook the Fit in 2nd place, and then went on to gradually narrow the gap with the leading fit. In the final lap, with the difference between them shrinking, Sasaki boldly challenged the leader with a leap at the hairpin but wasn’t able to get passed and went off course. Although he didn’t lose his position he finished in 2nd place. This took the Hiromatsu Demio to its first podium.
Later, Sasaki Kota related, “We actually had an electrical problem from an unknown cause from Friday, so I was pretty nervous. Also, our rivals pitted twice due to the FCY. I tried to fill the gap by replacing only the left tire in our final pit, but the grip on the tires was fading at the end and went off course and was disappointed with second place. However, everyone in the team was impressed by the warm welcome from the fans and we will be aiming to win the championship.”
The Murakami Motors Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami / Yasunori Nakajima / Keiji Amamiya / Taro Kiritani), competing with a spare car due to an accident that took place in the opening round at Suzuka, had its power unit broken during qualifying and was forced to exchange to a spare engine. However, the electrical system was also damaged, and it took time to repair the car, leaving them starting the race one hour late. It ran all the way to the end, but officially did not finish due to not completing the requisite number of laps. The #66 odula Roadster (Riku Hashimoto / Katsuhiko Tsutsui / Takayuki Takechi) started from sixth and finished sixth. Ryohei Tanaka recorded the fastest A driver time and started 7th in the #78 LOVE DRIVE RACING Roadster (Tanaka / Satoshi Osaki / Koji Yamanishi) and finished 7th. The #50 LOVE DRIVE RACING Roadster (Marie Iwaoka / Hiroko Komatsu / Sayaka Kato / Rika Nakamura) finished ninth from a ninth place start. In addition, 3 drivers from Tohoku competed as a spot participation and received the checkered flag in the ninth place driving their #311 Tohoku Revival Racing Roadstar (Shikoko Koki / Iseya Koji / Takeda Koji). In addition, the NOPRO Demio SKY-D that took victory in the opening round did not compete. In the ST-4 class, the #54 TC CORSE Roadster (Shoya Kato / Kenichi Ohara / Koichi Tanaka) went into the official qualifying round and grabbed eighth on the grid, but due to technical problems was forced to end the race after one lap.
Team NOPRO’s #17 Axela SKY-D competed in Group 1’s ST-2 class, where the final race took place on the 28th. Tanigawa drove the #17 Axela, starting from 4th place and setting a solid pace before handing the wheel over to Tatsuya Nogami after one and a half hours. After that, Otani took the wheel for the second half. Several times he avoided getting embroiled in accidents involving other vehicles, overtaking those involved and headed towards the end of the race in 3rd place. After that, the car in 2nd crashed due to machine trouble, and the #17 Axela moved up to second where it finished the race. Following the opening race at Suzuka, it achieved its second consecutive race podium.
Team Nopro representative Toshihiko Nogami stated, “The Axela’s performance has improved since last year, and the time gap with our rivals has been reduced considerably. Also, we have an advantage in fuel efficiency, so the longer the race, the more chances we have. We want to build up a machine that can be used to win the championship.” The next race will be the Fuji 24 hour race (June 1st and 2nd), and the team will compete with two cars, an Axela SKY-D and a Demio SKY-D.
Text and Photos by MZRacing