SUZUKA, Japan - The eighth and ninth rounds of Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ) were held at Suzuka Circuit, with the #12 machine of Nissan Driver Development Program (NDDP) member Mitsunori Takaboshi taking second place in the ninth race.
The first FCJ races of the year at Suzuka were held as support events to the F1 Japan Grand Prix. Unlike the usual schedule, Friday featured a 30-minute free practice session followed by a qualifying session. Takaboshi set a personal best time in practice, and bettered it by 0.5 second in qualifying, good for fifth place. Meanwhile, the #13 machine piloted by Kiyoto Fujinami, who was participating in his first F1 support race, finished seventh in the qualifier. Despite his inexperience, he had a good feel for the track surface, altered after the F1 run, and recorded a time better than even Takaboshi in the early stages of the session.
Round 8 got underway at 9:30am on the 6th (Saturday). Takaboshi, who started fifth, fell back a place on the opening lap, but maintained close pursuit of his opponent. On lap four, he opened a gambit to overtake at the chicane, commencing a duel. Then at the hairpin corner on the following tour, he succeeded in turning the tables. However, at Spoon corner, his opponent seized on a momentary opening and Takaboshi suffered a reversal of his own. His rival was then able to open up a lead of a full second, though Takaboshi quickly recovered his pace, and on lap 7 was able to take his revenge at the same Spoon corner where he had previously been overtaken and reclaim fifth place. He then climbed yet another position to finish the race fourth. Fujinami, who had ended qualifying in seventh, also managed to improve his position to finish sixth. It was his second points-scoring result.
The grid order for Round 9 was determined by each of the driver's best lap times during Round 8. Though Takaboshi, who sat third on the grid, advanced one position thanks to a good start, the balance of his machine was slightly off after an unscheduled tire change the previous day because of damage at the right rear tire. He was unable to improve his pace during the opening laps, and once again fell back to third. Regaining some of his lost pace later on in the race, he crossed the finish line in third place. After the race, a time penalty handed to one of his rivals advanced Takaboshi's finishing position to 2nd.
Fujinami, who had started in the 11th place, rose up to 9th by the flag for a single-digit finish.
Mitsunori Takaboshi (Rd. 8: 4th, Rd. 9: 2nd)
"When I checked my tires after Round 8, I found that a small part of the rubber on my right rear tire had come off. That's why I took a tire that I'd used in Friday's practice session as a replacement. However, I suppose that having just one tire that was different from the others affected the car's balance. I made a good start, but my pace throughout the opening stages of the race wasn't what I'd have liked it to be. During this race week I came to realize a lot of my own weak points. I plan on conquering all of them in the month remaining between now and the season's final round."
Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ)
Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ) is a race series established in 2006 through the cooperation of automakers Nissan, Toyota and Honda, using new junior formula cars. As the focus of FCJ is on improving driving skills, the competing vehicles are all identical, and modifications are prohibited. The chasses are produced by Italian manufacturer Tatuus, and use engines produced by Renault.
In 2012, Nissan is supporting the participation of NDDP FCJ Scholarship drivers Mitsunori Takaboshi and Kiyoto Fujinami.
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