Lights-to-Flag for #456 odula Roadster at S-Tai Rd 3 at Okayama
Similar to the previous round at SUGO, the event was held over two days with qualifying for all eight classes held on the morning of the first day, followed by a 3-hour race for Group 2 (ST-4, ST-5) in the afternoon, and a 3-hour race for Group 1 (ST-X, ST-Z, ST-TCR, ST-1, ST-2, ST-3) on the second day. The first two races of this season were held under rain but the weather finally cleared up for the third race of the year. A total of 11 Mazda cars (1 in ST-2 class, 1 in ST-4 class, and 9 in ST-5 class) entered the race, and in the official qualifying round, where the starting grid is determined by the combined times of A and B drivers, the #456 car of Riku Hashimoto and Tomomi Senoo set the top time in the ST-5 class to take pole position. The #88 Murakami Motors Roadster (Hiroyuki Murakami / Yasunori Nakajima / Tatsuya Tanigawa / Taro Kajitani) secured 2nd and the #66 odula roadster (Takayuki Takechi / Tsuneaki Manguno / Shuichiro Sotozono) grabbed 3rd place on the grid.
When the Group 2 race started at 13:30, Tanigawa, the #88 starting driver, made a perfect start and passed the #456 to take the lead. As the #456 started to pull away, the #456 was chased by the Fit coming from behind. However, #456 was able to defend his 2nd placed position as the Fit’s tires began to lose grip, slowing its pace. The #456 went into the pits on lap 43. The team returned the car to the track after only changing two-tires to shorten the pit stop time. Murakami, in the 2nd placed #88 car, chased hard on the #456 and closed the gap, but the car ran off course in the second corner with less than 40 minutes remaining in the race. The #88 thus dropped out of the battle for the lead. The #456 continued to build up a large margin with the rest of the pack. This also gave the #102, which was running in fourth place, a third place podium finish. Meanwhile, the point leader, the #37 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Kaoru Ijiri/Kazunari Yoshioka/Toyo Seki), developed mechanical problems and had to be pulled into the pit garage for repairs. Nevertheless, the mechanics did their best to repair the car and they were able to return to the track on the final lap. They didn’t give up until the end and were able to pass the checkered flag.
Yasuhiro Takasaki, the #456 odula Roadster representative, said, “The drivers have always been fast, so we practiced driver changes and tire changes, which were our weak points in endurance races, and shortened our pit time. The strategy of changing two tires was partly a risk, but I believed in the drivers and approached the race with an aggressive attitude for the three-hour sprint race.” Hashimoto won for the second year in a row in Okayama. It was also moving to see local driver, Senoo expressing his joy with tears in his eyes.
On the second day, the Group 1 race was held and the NOPRO Axela SKY-D (Tatsuya Nogami/Hiyo Ohtani/Toshihiko Nogami) in the ST-2 class competed in the Group 1 race. The team focused on setting up the car for the corners from round 2, and it paid off as they were able to finish the race in 5th place.
The next round of the Super Taikyu Series will be a 5 hour race at Twin Ring Motegi in Tochigi Prefecture on November 21st and 22nd.
Text and Photos by MZRacing