Koichi Okada’s Demio 15MB Takes First Season JN5 Victory at All Japan Rally Rd 5
Round 5 “MONTRE 2019”, which marked the halfway point of the series, was the first gravel rally this season, and was held concurrently with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the Alpine Rally Historic Series. A total of 78 machines were listed on the entry list. Forty-nine cars participated in the All Japan Rally Championship, of which five Mazdas in the JN5 class and one RX-8 AT spec competed in the JN6 class.
The rally began with reconnaissance (preview runs for safety confirmation) on the 8th (Fri), when the Kanto and Koshinetsu regions declared the start of their rainy seasons. Leg 1 was held on the 9th and leg 2 on the 10th and the rain and fog turned the event into a battle for survival under hellish conditions. At the opening SS1 (0.35km), which started on wet track, Sitting at 2nd in the series rankings after round 4, Koichi Okada and Takeshi Kobayashi’s Demio 15MB marked down the best time, making a good start to the rally. In the following SS2 (5.57km) Tomoyuki Amano / Takushi Shiota (Toyota), who have won 4 consecutive wins this season in the JN5 class, finished in the top while Okada, who ran this SS carefully, dropped down to fourth place in class. Tetsuya Gonda / Jacky’s Demio was in third place.
While battles raged on in difficult rainy, foggy conditions that reduced visibility in addition to creating a slippery road surface, Amano / Shioda was running at the top of SS4 (9.60 km) but hit a rock, forcing their retirement. With this, Gonda moved into second and Okada into third, but the Demio’s Minami Nobo / Paul Santo were also forced to retire proving that this SS4 had become the toughest stage of this tournament. At SS5, the next tarmac stage, Okada jumped up to the top. After that, he held onto his leading position until the final SS on the second day and won his first victory of the season and his first since the last round of 2015. In addition, with Okada’s victory was the first for the Demio 15MB in the All Japan Rally Championship.
Okada went on to say, “This time the conditions of the rally were very harsh due to the rain and fog, but I was able to keep running smoothly without any problems with the car. I think it was a good run. It is a pity that Amano had to retire. On the second day I had a time gap with the rest of the pack, so we ran not only fast but also while carefully tracking the course on the rough stages to avoid rocks and other obstacles I think I was able to run without losing concentration until the end. This win was my first since the 2015 Shinjo rally, so I’m really happy. The Demio 15MB is a machine with high potential and maneuverability, and we have now worked out the optimal suspensions and brakes, and along with the close ratio transmission, we can run quite fast.” He continued with joy and determination, “I will work hard so we can make a full-fledged attack and win in the next round of the tournament.”
Gonda who was running at the top in the first half, ultimately finished 4th in the JN5 class. Tetsuna Watanabe / Misaki Hashimoto, who took the best time in SS6, finished 5th in the JN5 class, Masato Nakanishi / Rinken Fukui’s RX-8, competed in the JN6 class, completed each run and finished in 4th place.
Round 6 of the All Japan Rally Championship, the “2019 Sammy ARK Rally Kamui” will be held from July 5th (Fri) to 7th (Sun). Set in the mountains around Niseko in Hokkaido, the gravel forest roads in the medium and high-speed range are expected to be an exciting event for the Mazda vehicles, a popular event where dynamic driving unique to Hokkaido can be expected.
text＆photo by CiNQ