Odula Roadster Grabs First S-Tai Win
Ten Mazda vehicles competed in this year’s final round, including two in the ST-5 class. Despite being held in November, the weather was quite warm and sunny and the 3-hour race for Group 2 (26 cars of ST-5 and ST-4 classes) was held in the morning and that for group 2 (33 cars of the ST-X, ST-Z, ST-TCR, ST-1, ST-2, ST-3 class) held in the afternoon. In the qualifying for the highly competitive ST-5 class, the #88 Murakami Roadster had the potential to grab the title if it secured pole position, but the #66 odula Roadster took the top spot and so this chance was lost. Despite qualifying 4th in class, the #101 Hiromatsu Demio (Shinichiro Yoshida / Kota Sasaki / KENBOW) stopped on the course during the session. Due to an engine blow they were forced to change their engine before the race began. As for the other Mazdas, the #78 LOVE DRIVE RACING roadster (Yugo Osaki / Koji Yamanishi / Katsuhiko Tsutsui) qualified 6th, the #37 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Akira Ijiri / Yoshishige Fujiwara / Kazunori Tsuji) 10th, The #50 LOVE DRIVE RACING Roadster (Marie Iwaoka / Hiroko Komatsu / Sayaka Kato / Junko Fujii) 12th and the #89 Murakami Roadster (Taro Sugaya / Ikuo Maeda / Haruhiko Sugino) would start the race from the 13th place.
In the final race of the second group, the #66 car roadster driven by Hashimoto pulled away from the rest of the group at a fast pace, expanding its lead before handing the wheel over to second drive Oda. Oda steadily ticked off laps with fast times and built a massive lead of 1 minute 30 seconds. It seemed that the final driver would have an easy time until the safety car (SC) was dispatched to handle an accident that occurred on the course, and they suddenly experienced a transmission problem as the SC left the course. From then on they were forced to drive without using 3rd gear, gradually dropping their pace, but due to their large lead, they were able to run in the lead until the checkered flag on lap 92. Their final difference with the car in 2nd, the 88 Murakami Roadster, was 40 seconds. Hashimoto, the starting driver, stated “I was sick and had fever until the day before yesterday but I finally recovered before qualifying. When I got on into the car, it felt very good, I felt that I could really push hard. It was good to get PP. I’ve been practicing my start dashes for a long time, so I’m glad that I was able to build a lead in the race.”
Having finished racing in Thailand, this was the first race for Oda after returning to Japan and he said, “My first race since coming back was this S-Tai round. I had no troubles because Hashimoto did such a good job. Besides that, this was the first win for this team so I’m really lucky”. Takeji said, “Since the 3rd gear suddenly disappeared, I was worried that the other gears would fail. It’s possible we couldn’t have won without the SC. I’m really happy to have won our first victory. ”
Murakami Motors’ Murakami said, “We let the series championship slip out of our grasp and finished 2nd in this race, which was disappointing, but we raced as a team and I think we had a good season this year. Next year is still undecided, but I hope that we can return to the S-Tai again, so please continue to cheer us on.” Maeda, who participated for the first time, said, “I was asked by Mr. Murakami to compete for the first time. My job was to keep the car in one piece and hand it over to Kajiya. I pushed a little hard and went off course twice. But I was able to achieve the lap times I wanted to and it was so much fun.” As for the other ST-5 class cars, the #78 finished 5th, the #101 was subject to a 20 second pit stop penalty due to their engine change but still finished 7th. The #37 finished 8th, the #89, 11th, and the #50 finished 13th. The TC Corse Roadster RF (Akihiro Kato / Koichi Ishii / Aitrian) competed in the ST-4 class but did not finish. The #17 NOPRO Axela SKY-D (Tatsuya Tanikawa / Tatsuya Nogami / Tatsuo Otani / Toshihiko Nogami) ran in the ST-2 class in the first group race, and ran in 2nd place for a time. A podium finish seemed certain, but they suddenly lossed power at the closing stages. The car was drawn into the garage, where it was determined it would be impossible to repair the problem before the race ended, so they returned to the course again and finished fifth in class. The #17 NOPRO Axela SKY-D finished the season at 3rd place in the ST-2 class rankings.
With this, the Super Taikyu Series season has ended. Next season is scheduled to start with a joint test in March. In addition, the Super Endurance Series competitors will participate in the Mazda Fan Festa 2019, which is scheduled to be held at Okayama International Circuit on November 23 and 24 this year, where demonstration runs will be held.
2019 S-Tai round 6 Okayama 3-hour race digest video (YouTube 5’02 ”)
Text and Photos by MZRacing