Super Taikyu Heads Towards 24 Hours of Fuji
After a test session was held at Fuji Speedway on February 26th, the Super Taikyu Series’ opening round (Suzuka) in March, along with the Sugo round in April, the 24 Hours of Fuji, scheduled for June and the Autopolis round in July were postponed due to the spread of COVID-19. The opening round of the new calendar was designated as the 24 Hours of Fuji, to be held in September, and the teams have been preparing for the resumption of the season. A total of 40 cars, including nine Mazdas, took part in the official test on this day. In the ST-5 class, all but one of the cars were Mazda vehicles. A total of six Roadsters were on hand, making it one of the most commonly driven vehicles in the ST-5 class, along with the Toyota 86.
Three test sessions were scheduled for 90 minutes in the morning, 90 minutes in the afternoon, and 100 minutes in the night section, and drivers competing in the Fuji 24-hour race for the first time were required to attend the night practice session from 18:50. The track met with rain during the morning session, the afternoon session was dry and the night session was held under drizzle, which allowed the team to test in a variety of conditions. Yusuke Hashimoto (24), a rookie in the Overdrive team, said, “Last year I entered the NC Roadster in the East Japan Roadster Party Race Series and finished 5th in the series. From this year, I was fortunate enough to be given a seat in this car (car #66), but I am still very nervous because my debut race will be at the Fuji 24 Hours. S-Tai cars are completely different from party racers because of the ND format. Tire grip is high, and the car and suspension are well built, so it’s a different dimension. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m looking forward to taking in advice from my seniors and challenging myself.” Ryunosuke Yoshida, 19, another newcomer to the Hiroshima Mazda HM racers, said, “I competed in the N-ONE race last year. I haven’t driven an S-Tai car since the official test in February, and today was my first time driving at Fuji in the rain. The FF cars were stable even in the wet, and the rain tires gripped well, so I felt comfortable driving them. I’m sure it will be hot and the conditions will be tough for the 24-hour race in September, but I will try to stay calm and not damage the car. On the one hand I’m excited, but on the other hand I’m nervous about the mixed race. There will be a lot of people watching us, so I’ll do my best to show them good driving and help them remember me.”
Takayuki Takechi of the Overdrive 66 car said, “It’s been a long time. It’s great to see everyone here in good spirits. We put in a new rear wing during the long break. The team structure was renewed this year, so it’s very fresh. I’m looking forward to seeing our rookie drivers develop.” Hiroyuki Murakami, the representative of Murakami Motors, added, “We are all exhausted after such a long off-period. But now that racing has resumed, we can all come together and race together. I’m just enjoying the excitement of it all.” Toshihiko Nogami, the oldest member of Team NOPRO, said, “Man, it’s been a long time. We built a carbon roof for the Axela during the long period away, then applied for and got it certified. The rear window is also made of acrylic, and we have reduced the total weight by 20kg. We also made a few changes to the engine control, and while peak power remains the same on the chassis dyno meter, the middle torque is heftier and easier to handle. We’ve been using a standard 60-liter fuel tank, but since regulations allow for up to 95 liters, we’ve added a 25-liter auxiliary tank. This extends the stint from about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. The reduction in pit loss is a big deal.” Mr. Nogami, who has always had his sights on victory, laughs, “But we still have a lot left to do.
During the day’s testing, the teams collected a variety of data and verified updates to their cars. Although this official test was conducted without spectators, we’ve been informed that 24 Hours of Fuji in September will be held with spectators in attendance. When that happens, we hope to enjoy the drama of the 24 hours with spectators watching in tents at every corner, as we have in the past.
*In order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, we have decided to cancel this year’s Super Taikyu Race Mazda Team Pit Support Tour. We apologize to those who were looking forward to this tour, but we ask for your understanding.
Text and Photos by MZRacing