Hiromatsu Demio Takes ST-5 Class Victory in Debut at S-Tai Rd 4
In the official qualifying that took place the day before, in the ST-5 class, the #88 Murakami Motors Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami / Naoki Yamatani / Keiji Amamiya / Taro Kiritani) took pole position. Following the previous race at Fuji, this put them in the best place to take victory. The #66 odula Roadster also took the front row, while the #78 car LOVE DRIVE RACING Roadster (Ryohei Tanaka / Koji Yamanishi / Satoshi Osaki / Rika Nakamura) grabbed the third place on the grid and the #101 Hiromatsu Demio qualified in 4th place to see Mazda cars dominate the qualifying session.
The weather forecast heavy rain but the light rain that started in the morning on the 21st that initially wet the starting grid cleared by the start and the sun peered through the clouds. With this, each team hurriedly changed from rain tires to shallow grooves. The formation lap started at 11:30am. The green light was lit after one lap and the race started on schedule. In the ST-5 class, the #88 Murakami Roadster was running at the top, but on the next lap the #78 Car LOVE DRIVE Roadster took the top spot and then gradually expanded the lead. Later, the #66 odula Roadster and #101 Hiromatsu Demio also appeared in the top group, and a several car battle for the lead unfolded.
Thirty minutes after the start, the record line began to dry, and at the first pit-in, each team changed over to slick tires. The #88 Murakami Roadster immediately succeeded in jumping to the top. After that the #88 began to pull away. The #101 Hiromatsu Demio was 6th at this point. However, after 3 hours, it started to rain, and the downpour gradually became stronger. The unstable weather caused confusion the in tire selection and pit timing, and the #78 Roadster fell back, while the Hiromatsu Demio pushed forward. From here another fierce battle for the lead unfolded between the Mazdas and Fits.
After that, with less than an hour remaining, the rain became even stronger and fog hung over the course. The Murakami Motors, that had been running in the top, suddenly went out off course and the Hiromatsu Demio, driven by Kota Sasaki, moved into the lead. Murakami, Murakami Motors team rep said, “The radio had problems, and so we our pit timing wasn’t good. I was running as well as I could with slick tires, but I think pushed too hard. When I was overtaken by a different class car, I got stuck in the gravel. Fortunately, I was able to return to the course but the chances of winning were lost”.
In the remaining 50 minutes, a FCY (full course yellow) was called to remove a crashed vehicle, and this was changed to a SC (safety car) run during which overtaking was forbidden. After that, the weather did not improve, and in the second half of the course a thick fog came covered the track, resulting in a red flag being flown at 16:20 due to low visibility and the race ended at that point.
The #101 Hiromatsu Demio, who had been leading the ST-5 class, took its long-awaited first victory, and the # 66 odula Roadster also got its first podium of the season. The #78 LOVE DRIVE RACING Roadster finished the race in 4th, with the #50 LOVE DRIVE RACING roadster (Marie Iwaoka / Hiroko Komatsu / Sayaka Kato / Junko Fujii) finishing 7th. In addition, the TC Corse Roadster RF (Shoya Kato / Kenichi Ohara / Keiichi Ishii) that competed in the ST-4 class finished the 109 laps and finished 9th in class while after receiving two penalties.
Kota Sasaki, driver of the #101 Hiromatsu Demio, who won its first victory, said, “This time, I came to Autopolis with a will to win. However, at first things did not go that well, and we qualified 4th. Still, I believed there was a chance if the conditions got worse, such as when it rained. The Hiroshima Mazda guys, who know the Demio inside and out, did a really good job. Also, our strategy and pit-in timing was perfect. I’m really happy with our first victory.”
In addition, team owner Tetsuya Matsuda, who lead the team, said, “We formed a team to compete with fast rivals such as the Roadster with the family car Demio (15 MB) and aimed to take victories this year. I didn’t think that we could win in round 4, but the drivers and the Hiromatsu mechanics really did their best. I really appreciate their hard work from the bottom of my heart. All Demio owners around the country, just know your car is such a great car.”
Text and Photos by MZRacing