SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE, Japan - Formula Challenge Japan hosted Rounds 5-7 at Fuji Speedway over the September 1-2 weekend, with the #12 machine of Nissan Driver Development Program (NDDP) driver Mitsunori Takaboshi netting 3rd place in Round 6.
The FCJ series was at the mercy of the weather in its first meet in nearly three months. Practice, scheduled for Friday, August 31st, had to be halted due to large rain droplets falling in the middle of the session, which brought out red flags. Drivers were thus forced to go into qualifying and the races without sufficient practice time in their cars.
Round 5 got underway at 12:15 on Saturday, September 1st. After experiencing machine trouble in qualifying, the #13 car of Fujinami could manage only 16th on the grid for the first of the weekend's races. From the low grid position, he passed a quartet of rivals on the opening lap, following it up with another pass on lap 2, and one more on lap 3. "My pace in the first half was very good," he commented later. The turning point of the 15-lap event came when he rose to eighth place, though a subdued pace throughout the second half of the event meant he crossed the finish line still running in 8th. Takaboshi, who had qualified in 2nd position, fell back at the start, crossing the line in 5th.
Round 6 was the last race held on Saturday. Grid positions for Rounds 6 and 7 were decided on the each best lap of the previous round. Starting in 7th place was Takaboshi, while Fujinami lined up 8th on the grid. Rain, which had fallen on and off all day long, had by now abated, and the track surface was starting to show signs of drying in places.
Takaboshi steadily advanced from the opening lap, rising to 4th place on lap 5. He now made his approach on the 3rd-place machine. Although it was Takaboshi who hadn't been able to control his car and increase his pace on the wet track surface of Round 5, in the dry conditions in Round 6 he amply displayed his talents. At the Dunlop Corner on lap 11, he advanced to 3rd place, and went on to stand on the winners' platform for the first time in two rounds. Meanwhile, Fujinami managed to improve on his starting position by two spots, taking his first series' points with a 6th-place result.
Round 7 started at 12:40 on Sunday, Sep't 2nd. Having qualified 4th, Takaboshi made a great start despite some water remaining on the grid - and got into an intense battle for third place in the race's final stages. This fight saw the pair catch the 2nd-place machine on the last lap, making it a three-way scrap to the flag. Takaboshi missed the podium by a mere nine hundredths of a second, finishing fourth. Starting 12th, Fujinami advanced well throughout the race, to finish in seventh place.
Mitsunori Takaboshi (Rd. 5: 5th, Rd. 6: 3rd, Rd. 7: 4th)
"Throughout these three days we've experienced all kinds of conditions. Despite this, I believe I was able to get more out of the car. However, considering I was able to qualify in 2nd place, the results in these three races are somewhat disappointing. For the upcoming rounds, I would like to use what I've gained here and run the races without any regret."
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