Sleeting rain and strong winds greeted the 38 entries and fans for the fourth round of the Super Endurance series of 2010 at Fuji Speedway. Conditions bordered on atrocious, with visibility for the drivers being limited at some points to as little as 15 meters; thanks largely to the plumes of spray and thick blankets of fog that descended over the circuit periodically throughout the day.
For those of you unfamiliar with the format of this type of event, Super Taikyu places cars into their respective classes and offers the teams an opportunity to test their skills against each other in combat over an extended period of time – in Fuji Speedway’s case, over a total of 4 continuous hours.
Cars are essentially the creation of something between a stripped out steroid injected homologation special and a tuned sports car. The regulations in place restrict power outputs and vehicle weights among many other things.
Personally, it was a first time voyage to a Super Taikyu event although I consider myself as far from a stranger to the racetrack as you can get. Thanks to some very good friends of mine, the day all but sorted itself out, with this lucky writer being granted inside access to not one but two of the garages and all the goings on within them.
Nick from the Suruga Trading Company, himself a deft touch behind the wheel of his own FD RX-7 FSW weapon, was gracious enough to first of all inform me of the coming event and then on top of that, arrange for a spot for me in the Okabe Jidosha garage for an up close look at the goings on within the team. And as if this weren’t enough, a surprise visit by our friend Ken Bradford procured more awesomeness, for as it turned out, Ken’s “uncle” was Gen Suzuki, manager of the Petronas BMW team. Needless to say, both the Okabe Jidosha and Petronas BMW teams treated us all with exceptional hospitality.
It wasn’t the first time I had met the guys from Okabe Jidosha either, for Nick and I were both at the FSW Classic Car Festival that preceded this event by a couple of months. At that time, Okabe Jidosha were handing out rides in an FD RX-7 to those lucky enough to know someone who knows someone and I just happened to know Nick and be carrying my GP-5 Arai, stuffed with my Puma gloves and balaclava in the car. Funny that.
A Super Taikyu car behaves in such a way as to make you feel like you’re riding in a pillow on the straights, what with its low amounts of rule-regulated torque and power but is absolutely astonishing on the brakes and through corners, literally tearing around everything and anything on the track that day. The fact that the RX-7 was fitted with standard brakes took my understanding of power to weight ratios way beyond the next level – an indelible sensation not soon forgotten.
And so I was happy to see Isamu Tabata again at this event, for it was he that had delivered the rush that day – and the best part was that he helped it all make perfect sense to me. That day Isamu drove the RX-7 as part of the festivities but normally he is behind the wheel of this particular Fairlady Zed…
…and with less that half an hour to go before this shot was taken, full of concentration on the task at hand. A tough day was ahead of he and his fellow drivers.
Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at these two; grinning from ear to ear and who can blame them? The eye candy extended much further than the mechanical variety, so expect a dedicated post on that straight after this.
Turning back to action further down the pits and the BMW Petronas team were clearly the favorites for the victory in the ST1 class at this event; the rain seemingly limp in deterring the superiority of their cars and drivers.
Armed with the consistency of Nob Taniguchi, the #1 BMW Petronas appeared unbeatable and has indeed recorded straight wins in all 3 rounds before Fuji Speedway.
There is no doubting what number Taniguchi prefers.
The sister #28 Z4M suffered a broken propeller shaft right at the start of qualifying and the team were forced to sit out the session and look on while the #1 took a commanding pole. Starting at the back of the grid is never fun, especially in these types of conditions, but by half way, the #28 had fought its way back up to second place.
Of the other teams that stood a chance to challenge the BMW’s for the win were the Art Taste and Faust Racing Porsche GT3 teams. The Art Taste 997 in particular ended up catching and overhauling the #28 BMW Z4M during the last 10 minutes of the race to take the second step of the podium.
The other team that had a chance was the new Nismo GT-R team. It was great to see the car back in endurance racing and big things are surely expected of the return. Unfortunately though, they brought with them the harder compound of wet tire for this race and the balance and grip of the GT-R suffered as a result.
Despite this, the GT-R recorded the fastest lap of the race; a 1.59.876 – who knows how good the GT-R really is? There is still little way to know so we will have to wait for Okayama to see how the deck is really stacked.
Incidentally, I decided to get a closer look at the GT-R after the race and that led to something interesting…
The car was sporting a very unique exhaust set up – gone is the twin system with a crude hole cut out for a slightly off center tail pipe. I don’t know whats going on under there but as is sometimes the case, it is function over form…
The ST-2 Class was dominated by Evolution X’s; the RS Ogawa and Endless Racing Mitsubishi’s relishing the wet conditions.
The ST-3 class includes a wider variety of machines although some of them are aging now. The Fina liveried, Makiguchi M3 BMW took the win with the Tracy Sports NSX hot on its heels in second place. In third came the Techno First Racing Fairlady Z.
The yellow Prova “Dragon” Engineering Zed sported an awesome paint job and had the speed to match, finishing in 6th and well within the points.
After a wretched day behind the wheel, including a spin during the beginning of the race that resulted in contact with the wall, the #14 Okabe Jidosha Z33 finished just inside the points in 9th with its sister FD RX-7 not too far ahead in 8th. The #15 FD3S retired with a gearbox failure not long after the first hour had been completed.
Here is some body work from the #7 that is going to be recycled into cans of soft-drink and other ecologically friendly things…
The all-girl #777 FD RX-7 entry performed admirably despite finishing 6 laps down.
There is something special about a female entry taking up a place in the supposed territory of men…
It is an all Honda affair in the ST-4 class, with a mix of S2000’s, Civics and Integras doing battle.
The class was won by the Asano Racing Services Integra DC5 Type R, while the familiar Spoon S2000 finished second followed by the Team A-One DC5 in third.
The hard shelled Bomex S2000 cut an awesome shape in the gloom to finish 8th
Back to the victors of the ST-1 class and things were a mixture of jubilation and a touch of disappointment. The last gasp challenge by the Art Taste GT3 to snatch second position pushing the second Z4M to the third step of the podium.
Still a 1-3 can’t be anything to be sneezed at because where the BMW failed in qualifying it stood up to the test when it counted.
The teams will now take an extended break from action and reappear in time for round 5 at Okayama raceway on the 5th of September.
You can count on 7tune to be there to cover the action.
To be continued in Part 2…
Words – Adam Zillin
Photos – Adam Zillin