Newly-formed Car #88 Roadster Grabs Pole-to-Win in Opening Round of S-Tai Series!
The S-Tai race has finally begun. Nine Mazda cars are entered in the Suzuka round. In addition to the ST-5 and ST-Q classes, OVER DRIVE entered the ST-4 class this season with the Roadster RF. In each class, there are many different types of cars running, and this year, five Mazda cars alone are entered in the S-Tolerance class, giving the event a rich variety of entries. On Saturday, when the official qualifying session was held, it rained during the morning free practice session, and the track surface was still partially wet in the afternoon. In the qualifying session, car No. 88 took pole position, with Soichiro Yoshida joining the team this season as B driver. In addition, three young drivers in their 20s, Ayahei Arioka as C driver and Daichi Okamoto as D driver, are teaming up for the Suzuka round, with No. 65 OVER DRIVE Roadster (Shuichiro Tonozono/Tatsuya Ota/Hirohito Ito/Eiji Niwa) in 2nd position, No. 50 LOVEDRIVE RACING Road (Isao Ihashi/Takayuki Oi/Junko Fujii/Mitsuhiro Kunisawa) followed in 3rd position.
At 11:50, the final race got underway, and No. 88 made a mistake-free start, widening the gap to the 2nd-placed car. Car 17, Demio Diesel, which started the race in 3rd position, was able to move up to 2nd position at a good pace. One hour after the start of the race, a car came to a stop on the course, bringing out a full course yellow (FCY), which was later changed to an SC run. Since many teams were refueling and changing tires, the pit area became very crowded. Car 88, which was running in the top position, lost time when exiting the pits due to the lack of space between the machines in the adjacent pit area. On the other hand, due to this SC, No. 72 Nihon Jidosha Daigaku Roadster (Tetsuya Yamano/Ryotada Kanai/Toshiya Nojima), which had to pit on the first lap to get rid of the handicap for gentleman drivers stipulated from this season, lost some positions early in the race and was able to close the gap due to the handicap and move into the battle for the top positions. Oi was the starting driver for No. 50, which started 3rd. However, due to radio malfunction and running out of fuel, the car later fell far behind.
Toward the end of the race, the battle for the top positions in the ST-5 class became even more intense, with the three cars of No. 88 Roadster, No. 17 Demio Diesel, and No. 72 Roadster at times going three-wide. Car 17, with its superior straight speed, moved ahead, and behind it, car 72 driven by Yamano overtook car 88 at the first corner. It caught up with car 17 running in front and put pressure on it from behind. The two cars continued to battle, and as they exited 130R, they collided. Yamano was later taken to a hospital in Suzuka City, but was declared safe and sound by the team. After the race, car 17 was given a 40-second penalty, and the winner was decided, with car 88 taking the win and car 17 coming in 3rd. Mazda’s Challenge Program. They finished 5th in their first race. Car 37 TEAM NOPRO (Yoshihiro Kato/Tatsuya Nogami/Ken Kawana) entered in an old model DJ Demio finished the race in 11th place.
Meanwhile, No. 66 OVER DRIVE Roadster (Kosei Nukido/Kyosuke Inomata/Takahisa Ohno/Ryohei Sakaguchi), entered in ST-4 class, showed symptoms of overheating in the middle of the race and had to be taken to the pit garage. The team tried various means to repair the damage, but the race was completed without their return. Team Principal Takayuki Takechi commented, “We were able to achieve our target time. However, we were not able to test the car over a longer period of time, so we will work on countermeasures for the next race, the 24 Hours of Fuji. In the future, I believe that the Roadster RF will be able to show its strengths especially at circuits with many corners such as SUGO and Okayama.
The No. 55 MAZDA SPIRIT RACING MAZDA3 Bio concept (Kazuhiro Terakawa/Kaoru Ijiri/Yutaka Seki/Ikuo Maeda) in the ST-Q class has been testing repeatedly in preparation for the Suzuka round. After Saturday’s qualifying round, mechanics and engineers worked until late at night on maintenance and checking the drivetrain in order to complete the race, and after confirming that there were no problems, the team was fully prepared for the race the following day. In the final race, all four drivers completed their stints as scheduled, running 89 laps with no problems.
The next round of the S-Tai series will be the 24 Hours of Fuji. Mazda cars have won the ST-5 class championship for five consecutive years, and there are high expectations for this year’s race. Text & Photos by MZRacing
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