, Fuji Speedway, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan


2011 Super Taikyu Series Round 2 – Race Report

Round 2 of the 2011 Super Taikyu series (S-Tai) was a four-hour race held at Fuji Speedway, and saw the #15 OKABE JIDOSHA DIXCEL TEAM TETSUYA Z (driven by Masaaki Nagashima, Mojoru Tanaka, Tetsuya Tanaka) take a late lead and then victory in the hotly-contested ST-3 class.

This second race of the season was held during the opening weekend of Japan’s traditional summer break, with 38 cars taking the start in the four-hour event at the circuit located in the shadow of Japan’s most famous peak, Mt. Fuji. Among the starters, nine were entered in the ST3 class (for two wheel-drive machines with engine displacements between 2,001 and 3,500cc). In all, five examples of Fairlady Z were on the starting grid; the #15 OKABE JIDOSHA DIXCEL Team Tetsuya Z, joined by the #34 asset Techno Z34 (driven by Masahiro Sasaki, Shuji Maejima and Kimiya Sato), the #35 asset Techno Z33, (with NAKACHIN, Akihiko Hamano and Sho Hanawa at the wheel), the #51 DIAMANGO-Z (of Masahiko Kageyama, Isao Ihashi and Masamitsu Ishihara) and the #77 B-MAZEZ33 (piloted by Motoyoshi Yoshida, Naoki Nishimoto and Takahiro Shimizu).

Qualifying for the race took place on Saturday, July 23rd amid clear skies. At the end of the session it was the #51 on class pole, with the #35 car 4th, the sister #34 Z 5th, the #15 machine 6th and the #77 Z 7th on the grid.

The following day, July 24th saw overcast skies and relatively cooler conditions as the teams prepared for the race, which began at precisely 12:59pm. The lead was snatched away from pole-sitter Masahiko Kageyama in the #51 Z on lap 2, though the veteran driver was able to take the position back on lap 11 at Dunlop corner. He then built up a healthy gap before handing the car over to teammate Masamitsu Ishihara. On lap 52, Ishihara allowed the #14 RX-7 past, and then also the #15 Fairlady Z.

Meanwhile during the pit stops, Tetsuya Tanaka took the wheel of the #15 Z, vaulting into the lead in the process. Later however, teammate Mojoru Tanaka fell back to 2nd. Drama unfolded with just 15 minutes remaining in the four-hour battle as the then-leading #14 RX-7 was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty due to an infringement of the rules, overtaking under yellows. As a result, the #15 Z moved back into the top spot, the position in which it took the chequered flag. It was the first S-Tai victory for Mojoru Tanaka, and the first for the #15 Z in over four years, since the opening round of the 2007 season in Sendai.

The battle for 2nd place was fought over by three machines. Among them, Ihashi in the #51 Z was running in fourth place and put in a hard push to pass the #14 RX-7 (which had fallen to third after serving its earlier penalty) on the main straight on the penultimate lap. Now running third, Ihashi set his sights on the 2nd-placed #339 NSX, closing dramatically on the last lap. Though unable to usurp his rival, Ihashi nevertheless finished in a brilliant third place. It was the first podium for the #51 Z, on a temporary entry for the race, and in its second season of Super Taikyu competition.

The #35 Z had its steering wheel shared among Hamano, Hanawa and NAKACHIN and finished 5th in class, while the #77 Z of Nishimoto, Yoshida and Shimizu took sixth at the flag. The #34 Z was withdrawn from the race with 45 laps remaining due to a drive train problem.

Masaaki Nagashima (race winner)
“This is our first victory in over four years – since the opening round of the 2007 season! I’m extremely happy to be standing in the centre of the podium, but it’s a shame to just miss out on the first 1-2 finish for the team. In my stint, I spun after running over some oil on the track and that caused me to lose positions. At the time, I thought it was the end of our day, but Te-chan (Testuya Tanaka) did a great job to erase the deficit, and this was a huge contribution to the victory. I think Mojoru did a great job today as well.”

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