JGC Rd.2 Yu Wins in a Daring Comeback in the 2nd Heat!
Last year, the TAMADA Round was held during the last week of Golden Week, the first All-Japan event in three years, and this season, the second consecutive All-Japan event was held on April 15-16.
This season’s All-Japan Gymkhana Championship has undergone major changes from last season, with the reorganization of class divisions, class name changes, the introduction of JAF Speed B vehicles, and changes in tire regulations for P/PN/AE vehicles.
The class names from JG1 to JG11 adopted in 2021 and 2010 will return to the class names based on the vehicle classifications adopted before 2008, and will be newly divided into 9 classes: PE1 class for “P/AE vehicles equipped with electric brakes,” PN1 to 4 classes for PN vehicles, and BC1 to 3 classes for B and SC vehicles. The new classes are PN1 through PN4 classes for PN vehicles and BC1 through BC3 classes for B and SC vehicles, for a total of nine classes. The new classes include the PN1 class for front-wheel-drive PN vehicles under 1500cc, the PN3 class, which is a merger of last year’s JG7 and JG6 classes, the JG4 and JG3 classes, and the BC1 class, which combines front-wheel-drive vehicles from last year’s JG2 class into a single class, For those competing in Mazda cars, there are classes in which they will be competing against competitors in classes they have never competed in before, and a new season of battles awaits them. In the opening round, 125 cars entered in all classes, 30 of which were Mazda vehicles.
Before the event, gymkhana cars will be paraded through Hiroshima City to promote the event, and a party race-spec Roadster and a new MAZDA2 will be on display in the event plaza, where there will be booths selling goods and model cars, a catering corner, and a rock-paper-scissors-scissors tournament. The approximately 3,000 spectators who visited the venue were able to enjoy the spectacular techniques of gymkhana and enjoy motor sports in a more accessible and enjoyable manner.
Although the open practice day on Saturday the 15th was rained out, Sunday the 16th, the day of the final heat, was blessed with fine weather from the morning and the track surface was in dry condition. However, the weather forecast predicted thunderstorms in the afternoon. It will be interesting to see when the rain starts and how it will affect the competition.
Including the Box D class, 125 cars competed in this event. Of these, a total of 30 Mazda cars were entered in each class. The final course is a layout of two technical 360-degree turns combined with a high-speed perimeter section. The outer section includes a daring shortcut section where the cars must drive at full throttle while maintaining high speeds, and the slightest mistake is expected to have a significant impact on the final time.
In the PN1 class, which was newly established this year, Daisuke Fukuda, the only MAZDA2 driver in the class and struggling alone, marked the top time of 1 min 10 sec, the only time in the class, in the first heat. In the second heat, there was no rain during the time period when the PN1 class was running, and the conditions were dry. All cars attacked boldly, but were unable to match the time set by Fukuda in the first heat. In the end, Fukuda was able to keep his time from the first heat and took his first win of the season.
In the PN2 class, where 20 roadsters competed, last year’s JG8 class champion Noritoshi Kobayashi set the best time in the first heat, followed by veteran driver Tadashi Kawakita in second place by 0.015 seconds and season opener winner Keiichi Ono in third place by 0.026 seconds, making for a close battle at the top. In the second heat, Ono improved on Kobayashi’s time from the first heat to take the top position, but Kobayashi soon improved his best time as well. Ono took 2nd place and Shogo Kashiwa, a local driver who had come from 4th in the first heat, took 3rd place.
In the PN3 class, which was created by merging last year’s JG7 and JG6 classes, Kento Otawa in the Roadster RF, which won the opening round, is in 2nd position, 0.512 seconds behind the leader. On the other hand, Yu, last year’s JG6 class champion, fell to the lower position at the touch of a pylon. He will be hoping for a comeback in the second heat. In the second heat, while the best time from the first heat remained unchanged, Yu, the last runner in the class, improved his best time by 0.426 seconds. With perfect timing, just as it was about to start raining or not, he was able to pull off a come-from-behind victory, his first win of the season. Otawa, who was 2nd in the first heat, lost time in the first half of the second heat and fell to 6th in class. He will be looking for revenge in the next round.
PN1 Class Winner / Daisuke Fukuda Comment I had the feeling from the open practice that the course suited the MAZDA2 with its wide tires, so I was able to set consistent times in the race. Even when I cut into the steering wheel, the front did not seem to move away from the car. If you can’t win here, where can you win? This is the kind of course where if you can’t win here, where will you win!
PN2 Class Winner / Comments from Noritoshi Kobayashi I am relieved to have won because my car has been finished to the point where I think I can compete on a dry track. In the wet, we still need to work on some things, but we found that the settings we worked on in the wet can be used in the dry as well, which is a big gain.
PN3 Class Winner/Comments from Yu The car was doing well in the outer sections, so we were able to win with the points we earned there. In the turns, I got wobbly both times, and I was off the set-up. I haven’t been satisfied lately, and although I was able to win, I need to work on that more.
This season’s PN3 class is a merger of last year’s JG6 and JG7 classes. A total of 31 cars competed in this class in the opening round, and 27 cars entered in the second round. Yu, who won the JG6 class championship last year and the year before in a Roadster RF, is one of them. Until last year, his rivals were rear-drive cars with the same 2-liter engine as the Roadster RF, but this season, he will be competing against new rivals in addition to his previous rivals, such as cars with 2.4-liter NA engines and 1.4-liter turbo engines.
Yu is confident about the new class, saying, “I am looking forward to seeing how the Roadster RF fares in the new class. He is also confident about the Roadster RF, which he has been racing since 2021, “I think we have been able to refine the settings quite a bit, but I think we may be able to go even deeper by competing against new rivals. I think we will be able to compete well throughout the series, and I am looking forward to this season to test the settings we have been accumulating.
Compared to rivals, Yu says that the advantage of the Roadster RF is its “compact size and high traction performance. On a straight course, a car with more displacement and power may have an advantage, but on a fine course or a course where traction is important at the start of a turn, I think it will be a good match,” said Yu, looking forward to the new season.
Yu finished 3rd in the PN class in the opening round on a wet track, but “I think I was able to drive to the best of my ability. I think there will be many factors involved, such as matching the tires to the track conditions, but the season has only just begun, and I will continue to do my best from Round 2 onward. In the second round, the Roadster RF was able to transmit its traction to the road surface and won the fiercely contested PN3 class. The rewind of the champion driver’s comeback starts from here.
Round 3 of the All Japan Gymkhana Championship will be held from June 3 (Sat) to 4 (Sun) at Meihan Sportsland C Course in Nara Prefecture.
Text & Photo by CINQ LLC