,Fuji Speedway, Shizuoka
NDDP DRIVER MITSUNORI TAKABOSHI SCORES MAIDEN PODIUM FINISH
Formula Challenge Japan Race Report
Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2011 Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ) series were held at Fuji Speedway. This season, three drivers contesting the series receive support from the Nissan Driver Development Program (NDDP). In Round 1, Mitsunori Takaboshi in the #12 machine qualified 8th and finished the race in third place, netting the first ever podium of his career.
Qualifying was held on Saturday, April 23rd in rainy conditions. In the first session, Takaboshi finished 8th, followed by the #3 car of Tsubasa Kondo and the #16 machine of Daiwei Zhu in 14th and 15th respectively. However, in the second session, held after a 10-minute break, Takaboshi set the fastest lap during the early stages. Moreover, fellow NDDP scholarship holder Tsubasa Kondo bettered Takaboshi’s time and clinched the lead. He took his first ever pole position, meaning that NDDP drivers dominated the front row.
Due to torrential rain, Round 1, originally scheduled for the evening of the 23rd, was postponed to the following day. The race thus started at 7.50 a.m. on Sunday, the 24th. Overnight rain left some wet patches on the track, causing a number of spins. Takaboshi, who had started 8th, quickly passed two cars that were unable to make swift getaways, climbing to 6th place on the opening lap. Taking additional benefit from the accidents of a pair of machines that went off track, he soon moved up into 4th place. He subsequently passed another car to take third on lap 9, moving within sight of a podium finish. He continued to up his pace, steadily improving his lap times. Takaboshi eventually crossed the finish line in a fine 3rd place, marking his first ever podium in the category.
Meanwhile Tsubasa Kondo made a flying start from 14th on the grid, leaping to 7th place on the opening lap. He then chased Takaboshi, finishing the race in 4th place after making a couple of passing attempts on his fellow NDDP driver, and getting within 0.4 seconds in the last couple of laps. Zhu, who had started 15th, made a good start and moved up the order until making contact with another car at Turn 1. As a result he went off track and retired from the race.
Round 2 started with only 18 cars on the grid after Zhu’s machine couldn’t be repaired in time after his accident in Round 1. Kondo and Takaboshi, who had started from pole position and 2nd place respectively, kept their positions into Turn 1. However, they were unable to generate enough speed and began to gradually fall down the order. On Lap 12, while battling for 4th place, Kondo ran wide at the hairpin. Also when Takaboshi tried to pass Kondo at the Dunlop Corner, they unfortunately made contact, sending the latter off track and into an eventual 9th place finish. Takaboshi was given a drive-through penalty and finished his race in 16th.
Mitsunori Takaboshi (3rd in Round 1)
I’m really happy to have finished on the podium in the opening round of the season. My pace was a little better than the other drivers so I made as many attempts to pass as possible whilst also holding onto my position. In the closing laps, Kondo showed good pace and got quite close, but by then I had already built up a good enough margin so that keeping him at bay wasn’t a problem, and I was able to hold onto 3rd. However, in Round 2, when I tried to pass him, I wasn’t aggressive enough and we made contact. I’m really ashamed that I wasn’t able to make the move stick, and I also apologise to Kondo.
In 2006, the three Japanese car manufacturers Nissan, Toyota and Honda established a new formula car series (formula: an open-wheel single-seater racing category similar in appearance to Formula One), Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ) with the aim of educating young drivers and enabling them to compete globally. At the same time, Nissan started a scholarship program for a select few drivers, as did the other two manufacturers involved in the series. For 2011, Nissan has granted scholarships to three young drivers and supports their activities in FCJ. The program also supports Katsumasa Chiyo and Daiki Sasaki, both of whom take part in the National (N) Class of the All-Japan F3 Championship, a more advanced category that sits above FCJ in the formula car ladder.