JRC Rd.3 Karatsu Takuya Kawamoto/Naohiro Nagabuchi (MAZDA2) Finish 6th in JN-5 Class
This year’s All Japan Rally Championship, which started in the snow-covered village of Tsumagoi in Gunma Prefecture, was followed by the second round held in March on tarmac forest roads in Shinshiro City, Aichi Prefecture, and the series has already entered its third round.
The “Tour de Kyushu,” which takes place in the cities of Karatsu and Imari in Saga Prefecture, is a rally with a long history, having been held since 1997, when the All Japan Rally was divided into two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive divisions. The tarmac forest roads around Sanpouyama, located in the southeastern part of Karatsu City, have been set as the SS since the first rally, and are one of the most representative tarmac stages of this rally. This year’s rally, which has 12 SSs for the two days of the rally, will feature two SSs on Mikata-san on the first day and two SSs on the second day that run in the opposite direction from the first day’s Mikata-san, for a total of four stages. The first day of rain was wet.
The first day of rain was wet. The second day was blessed with fine weather from the morning, but in the morning, the road surface that remained from the previous day’s rain did not dry out, but in the afternoon, the road surface became dry, and the tire strategy for this condition will also affect the winners. The afternoon stage was dry, and the tyre strategy to suit these conditions was one of the major factors influencing the outcome of the race.
Including the Open Class, 56 cars competed in the event, with the MAZDA2s of Takuya Kawamoto and Naoo Nagabuchi competing in the JN-5 Class.
Kawamoto, who was in contention for the win in the second round in Shinshiro but suffered suspension damage when he went off course and ended up retiring from the rally, carefully attacked the stages on the first day, which were covered with rain and fog, and turned in 6th in class.
On the second day of the rally, when the weather recovered, Kawamoto and Nagabuchi improved their pace, setting the 4th fastest time in class in SS8, but were unable to improve their position. They finished the rally holding their positions from the first day of the rally well into the second day. Kawamoto, who was making his first All-Japan appearance as a driver in Round 2, completed his first All-Japan rally and finished 6th in his class, earning him his first 6 series points.
JN-5 Class 6th / Takuya Kawamoto Comment On the first loop of the second day, the road surface was still a little wet and there were some dangerous scenes, but after that the road dried up and I was able to use some of my driving skills to my advantage. I will do my best to catch up with the front runners as much as possible.”
Takuya Kawamoto, who turns 27 this year, spent his college years in Kyushu, where he was a member of the Automobile Club, which is what got him started in motorsports. After graduation, he worked for Mazda, and this year, his fourth year in the workforce, he is a salaried driver in the Powertrain Development Department.
As a driver, he won the series championship in the Kyushu Challenge Series in 2018 and the Kyushu Rally Championship RH-5 class in 2007, while from 2009 to 2010, he was co-driver for veteran Kyushu driver Koichi Okada, who used to compete in the All Japan Rally in a Demio 15MB. In 2009 and 2010, he also competed in the All Japan Rally as a co-driver for Koichi Okada, a veteran driver from Kyushu who used to compete in the All Japan Rally with his Demio 15MB.
He said, “Okada-san taught me more than I can say, not only the knowledge I needed as a co-driver, but also everything related to driving, from the preparation beforehand to what to do after the rally. It was a valuable experience,” says Kawamoto. He says that his experience as Okada’s co-driver in the All-Japan series made him realize that he would like to compete in the All-Japan series as a driver.
Kawamoto made his debut as a driver in the second round of this year’s All-Japan Rally. The rally was in rough shape with many accidents such as retirements in the early stages, and Kawamoto was in 2nd position, 3.1 seconds behind the leader, after SS8. The road condition was wet. The top driver had only dry tires left, and Kawamoto, who had saved his wet tires, had a golden opportunity to take the lead. However, Kawamoto went off the course at the first corner right after the start of SS9. He damaged his front suspension and regretfully retired from the race.
I was actually running without much concern for the standings, so I didn’t think I was that overawed emotionally, but looking back now, I think I lost concentration somewhere along the way and lost sight of my driving,” said Kawamoto. Reflecting on this, he finished Round 3 with flying colors, saying, “My main goal was to finish the race anyway. Looking ahead to the next round, Kawamoto said, “I now know where I was when I ran with the goal of finishing the race, and I will do my best to catch up with the top finishers as much as possible from here. I think I got another chance in Round 2 because I was right under the top competitors. I participate in rallies as a private rally participant, and my colleagues and seniors at work are now asking me, “How did you do? I will do my best to give them a good report.”
Many young drivers are participating in the JN-5 class this year, and Kawamoto says that his goal is “to become the number one driver in his 20s, of course! Kawamoto says, “Of course, I want to be number one in my 20s! We have high expectations for his performance this season.
Round 4 of the All Japan Rally Championships, “Kuma Kogen Rally,” will be held from May 5 (Fri.) to 7 (Sun.) in the Kuma Kogen area of Ehime Prefecture.
Text & Photo by CINQ LLC