Masato Nakanishi’s RX-8 takes JN6 class 2nd at Rally Hokkaido
This tournament was held in conjunction with the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and comprised a total length of 661.09km, with Special Stages (SS) covering a total distance if 167.11km, making it the largest rally in Japan. 20 machines from the APRC, which is being held for the 18th time this year, and 47 vehicles from the All Japan Rally Championship competed, and among them there were five Mazda2 Demios competing in the JN5 class and one AT RX-8 competing in the JN6 class.
The rally started after the opening ceremony held at the Kita Aikoku Service Park in Obihiro on the evening of Friday, 20th and began with a warmup 1.47km short stage. This was followed by the full-fledged rally running through forest roads that began on Saturday the 21st. The eight SSs held on the 21st were mainly composed of long stages of around 20-30km. On the 22nd (Sunday), there were six mid-length stages of about 6-14km.
The JN5 class Demio 15MB of Koichi Okada / Masahiko Shimazu, that took their first victory of the season in Round 5 at Monterey, which was also held jointly with the APRC, and was aiming for their second victory, was initially restrained in the marathon rally, finishing 4th in class in SS1 (1.47km) and SS2 (4.63km), then 5th in SS3 (23.49km). However, their wheels fell in a gap near the midpoint of the longest SS of the rally, SS4 (28.75km), and went off course.
“This is a long rally, so we were running at a slow pace in the first section in order to work out the machine, then I was going to increase the pace from the next section, but the machine fell into a gap that was not in the pace notes, so I went off the course. It’s a shame,” Okada said. This was their second retirement in a row following Round 7, the Yokote Rally.
In addition, in the JN5 class, Shunichi Hagio / Kusanagi Inoue’s Demio finished 4th in class, Namino Tamotsu / Paul Santo’s Demio took 5th. Kenshiro Yamanaka / Yuya Uno competed their debut in Rally Hokkaido and damaged their machine at the jumping spot of SS4 but managed to finish 7th in class.
In the JN6 class, the RX-8 of Masato Nakanishi / Ken Fukuibayashi, experienced an overheating problem just before the rally began, but managed to complete repairs just before the ceremonial start and was able to start the rally. They climbed up to 2nd in class in SS2 and maintained that position until the last day to take a class 2nd podium result.
“I sent the car straight to Hokkaido after Round 7 at Yokote and it seems that there was a problem with the radiator pipe at that time. I was a little worried about whether we would be in time for the start, so I’m glad that we were. Overall, I was struggling to lift the pace throughout the rally, especially on the long stages. I was relieved to be able to hold onto 2nd place. It was good that this year’s Rally Hokkaido was blessed with good weather for all three days. When it rains, it’s tough for FR cars. The next rally, the Highland Masters will be tarmac, which is also tough for this car, but I will do my best to be within 3rd place,” said Nakanishi, expressing his aspirations for the final round.
The next round of the All Japan Rally Championship, round 9, the “47th M.C.S.C Rally Highland Masters 2019 supported by Sammy,” will be held from October 11th (Friday) to 13th (Sunday) around Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. This rally has the longest history in the All Japan Rally Championship, and is a tarmac stage set around the mountains of Hida. Stay tuned for more rally news from the Mazda vehicles.
photo by CiNQ