MAZDA SPIRIT RACING Finishes S-Tai Race at Suzuka!
Car 55 MAZDA3 Bio concept, which made its debut in the final round of the series, the Suzuka 5-hour race held last November, participated in the official test conducted by the Super Taikyu Organization at Fuji Speedway on February 23, after reviewing the drive train and improving engine control during the off-season. In order to add more driving miles, the team continued to drive aggressively at Fuji and Suzuka, and entered the opening round of the 2023 season with confidence. The biodiesel fuel used until last year has been replaced by HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil) produced overseas and provided by Euglena, and the team is taking on the challenge of developing a new fuel that will expand its options toward carbon neutrality. Meanwhile, Car 120 ROADSTER, which will make its official debut race this year, is composed of amateur drivers from Roadster Party Race and Roadster Cup who were selected through the “Road to S-Tolerance” Challenge Program, with eight drivers between the ages of 21 and 64 with racing experience. Eight drivers with racing experience, ranging in age from 21 to 64, are scheduled to compete in different combinations for each race. After a joint test in February, they are challenging the opening round of the season. In addition to Sugino and Higuchi, who have been participating in the test since last year’s Motegi round, Oda, who has experience racing in Thailand, and Minowa, who has improved his skills through eSports, will be participating this time.
In the official qualifying held on Saturday the 18th, Car 55 qualified at 4th in the ST-Q class. No comparison can be made since the last time this event was held, the qualifying session was not run due to drivetrain trouble, and the final race was started from the very back of the grid. This time, all four drivers ran the qualifying session and each made a time attack. The best time recorded was a record that puts them in the ST-4 class, which is close to the performance class. The transmission assembly was replaced after qualifying, but even after 6.5 hours of full throttle driving, there was no internal damage or any other signs of damage, which was a relief to the engineers involved. Car 120, competing for the first time, qualified 7th out of 12 cars in the ST-5 class, which is a good result. Special mention should be made of Minowa’s aggressive driving in the D driver slot in the mixed race for all classes with tires that had run many laps.
Race day, the 19th, was a sunny day, and about 8,500 families and race fans visited the circuit. At 11:00 a.m., the start progressed, and all 53 cars in the field took their places on the grid. At 11:50 a.m., with the warm sun shining on the circuit’s surface, the race got underway with all 8 classes roaring off with the FIA GT3 cars in the lead; Terakawa was the front runner in the No. 55 MAZDA3 Bio concept, and rookie Minowa was the front runner in the No. 120 RODSTER. From early on, Terakawa took on the ST-4 class machines, and Minowa was also overtaking and passing his rivals in front and behind. Due to an accident on the course early in the race, FCY (full course yellow) was issued twice, and each time all cars were required to drive safely at 50km/h and no pit stops were allowed. The SC (safety car) was also deployed, and the course of the race was unpredictable. Even so, Minowa in No. 120 made up 4 overall positions after 1 hour, and after 25 laps, he was handed over to Higuchi in 2nd position. No. 55 was switched from Terakawa to Maeda. Maeda completed 25 laps trouble-free, and was switched to Ijiri in 3rd position. Sugino of No. 120 then switched to Oda after 29 laps. Oda recorded the team’s fastest time of the day while running from the middle of the race when the track surface became rough. 55 was scheduled to cross the control line to receive the checkered flag with last runner Seki taking over the last part of the race, but with about 40 minutes to the finish line, a major crash occurred at the final corner. However, a major crash occurred at the final corner with about 40 minutes to go until the finish. A red flag was displayed and the race was suspended. Race control then ruled that the race was over, and the competition was over. Despite the disappointing end, the opening round of the season proved to be a productive one, with Car 55 finishing the race with no problems and Car 120 finishing in 5th place in its class.
Minowa said, “I had experienced the mixed race in the qualifying round, but in the race, fast cars came up from behind one after another, and I was overwhelmed by their power. I was nervous because of the passing, and I had to go off the record line to give way, which was difficult. Even so, my rivals were able to set good times, so I want to gain more experience so that I can calmly deal with such situations. Terakawa, who is in the No. 55 car, said, as a development engineer, “We are learning a lot from this race. In a race, unthinkable phenomena occur, such as inputs that cannot be expected during normal circuit testing. Things that we brought in that we thought were acceptable in terms of performance would actually break down in a short period of time. By repeating such events over and over again, we can broaden our “ability to envision,” or rather our thinking, and our experience comes in handy in the development field as well. In addition, by speeding up this cycle of estimating the cause of a phenomenon and considering countermeasures, we are able to train people very well, and this is very meaningful.
The next race will be the Fuji 24 Hour Race on May 27 and 28, where the No. 55 and No. 120 trucks will be joined by additional members and will be facing a difficult challenge.
Text and Photos by MZRacing