OVER DRIVE finishes 1-2 in Fuji 24 Hour Race
On Friday, the morning of the qualifying session, very heavy rain fell on the circuit. The official qualifying session, scheduled to start at 12:00, was delayed due to the bad weather and, as the weather was not expected to recover, the cancellation of the qualifying session was announced at 15:10. The starting grid for the race would be determined by the series ranking. As a result, the ST-5 class point leader, the #66, started from pole position. The #456 car started from 2nd, seeing the two OVER DRIVE cars occupying the top grids. The #103 HM RACERS Hiromaz Demio Mazda2 (Kota Sasaki, Sohichiro Yoshida, Tomomitsu Seo, Angry Satoru Osaki, Ryunosuke Yoshida) started from 3rd. The #88 car, which has won two consecutive Fuji 24-hour championships, began from 4th. The #72 NATS Roadster (Ryotada Kanai/Anna Inozume/Tatsuya Okahara/Yasuhiro Matsuo/Toshihiro Kubota/Hachiro Osaka) started from 5th, and the #37 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Kaoru Ijiri/Kazunari Yoshioka/Toyo Seki/Tatsuya Nogami/Hiroro Yamamoto), last year’s winner, started from 6th position. Beginning from this race, the #17 NOPRO Demio SKY-D (Hiroo Otani/Masataka Inoue/Toshihiko Nogami/Yoshiro Kato/Junichi Uematsu/Tsuketsu Nishizawa) switched over to the diesel Demio and went into the race with a new white color scheme.
The conditions for Saturday’s race were cloudy. Cold air flowed over the circuit, and rain was a concern. The Fuji Champion Race Roadster Cup Round 2 was held as a support race for this Fuji 24-hour race, and 26 roadsters battled it out on the track before the 24-hour Super Taikyu race. Then at 15:00, the signal turned green, and the 24-hour race began. The weather was cloudy and dry. After the start, the #456, #72, and #66 cars fought hard for the lead. However, the #456 was able to pull away and build up a 1 lap lead into the night. The #72 car, which had been in good form in Round 2, winning its first pole position and finishing on the podium in 2nd place, stopped at midnight due to a problem with its fan belt. As a result, a full course caution (FCY) was introduced where all cars had to slow down to 50km/h and overtaking was prohibited. Although the students worked hard to repair the car and get it back on the track, they were out of contention for the top positions. During the night, the two Demio SKY-Ds, the #17 and #37, drove steadily and were running in 4th and 5th positions. The #456 car, which had a large lead, was able to turn the tables on the #66 car after a penalty stop at midnight and a subsequent safety car (SC) run. In the morning, the #66 car was running in the top position, followed by the #456 car. In the other classes, there were many incidents such as accidents and contacts, but all the Mazda cars were able to complete the race safely.
After that, the #66 and #456 engaged in a fierce battle of overtaking and being overtaken until the checkered flag, but the #456 began to pull slightly in front. The #88 car was running in third place, a little further back and was steadily aiming for the finish line with error-free driving. The two cars continued to race to the checkered flag, and the #456 finished the 24-hour race in the lead and took its first victory. The #66 car finished in 2nd place, and the OVER DRIVE pit was filled with joy. The #88 car finished in 3rd place and was on the podium again for the first time since winning the race two years ago. The NOPRO team, which won last year, followed in 4th place with the #17 and #37 in 6th. In 7th place was the #72. The #103 car, which started the race in 3rd place, had some trouble with its electrical system, but finished the race in 8th place. The #78 LOVE DRIVE Roadster (Junko Fujii/Jco IINUMA/Takaihiro Kimura/Tetsuya Suto) had an accident on the morning of the second day and were forced to retire. The #50 LOVE DRIVE Roadster (Koji Yamanishi/Hiroyuki Matsumura/Yoshihito Shinoda/Kyoshi Hata) finished the race in 10th place.
Yasuhiro Takasaki, team representative of the #456 team, said, “The Fuji 24 Hours is one of the races in the series where there are a lot of points, so this is the race we were aiming for from the beginning. However, the season has only just reached the turning point, so we would like to continue to race aggressively for the title with our enthusiastic and talented drivers.” Driver Riku Hashimoto said, “Honestly, I’m happy with this win. I can’t say it’s perfect yet, but the team made a good car, and we drivers were able to do our best without making any mistakes. Even so, we drove with a lot of anxiety, wondering if the tires would hold up, and if the brakes and transmission would be okay.”
Video Report – click the link below.
2021 S-Tai Round 3 Fuji 24 Hour Race Record Video (YouTube 9’24”)
Text and Photos by MZRacing