Japan Le Mans Challenge - Round 2 Motegi - July 2
Unexpected LMP1 Champions
© Tomoko Kobayashi

It was a second consecutive overall race win for the Hitotsuyama Racing Ferrari 550 of Naoki Hattori, Tatsuya Kataoka and Eiichi Tajima after the LMP1 challenge from both the brand new M-Tec engined Courage LC70 ( which completed just seven laps) and the pace setting Zytek fell by the wayside, the Noda / Katoh driven Zytek hitting gearbox trouble mid race which forced it into retirement after leading convincingly.

The podium was completed by the #4 AND #3 GC-21s (full-bodied Dallara F3 cars) prototypes, a third similar car, the #18 car having lead overall after the Zytek's demise.

The #27 Porsche 911RSR was next up, taking GT2 for Koji Aoyama, Shinichi Takagi and Morio Nitta.
The Hitotsuyama Racing team then have a convincing (and now unassailable) lead in the JLMC, but not perhaps with the car they expected (the same team of course also enters the Zytek).

Could this have been the final overall win for a Care Racing Ferrari 550? And on the same day as the final win for the Audi R8?

The significant addition to the entry was the Mugen-entered Courage, for 2004 Le Mans winner Seiji Ara and current Le Mans Series driver Haruki Kurosawa. The LMP1 class totalled three, with the Zytek and an Oscar SK93, an old Japanese prototype.

Unfortunately, the #17 Nopro Roadster did not pass scrutineering on Friday, while the JLOC Murcielago was absent after the Le Mans 24 hours, so only 12 cars appeared for the qualifying session.

Saturday morning’s session was held on a wet track, and the #21 Hitotsuyama Zytek driven by Hiroki Kato was the quickest, followed by the new Courage.

The session to set the grid was held at 14.40, and ex-Formula 1 driver Hideki Noda, took the pole, despite just two flying laps in the Zytek. Haruki Kurosawa drove the new Courage, but was 1.1 seconds slower than the ‘675’ car. The ex-Formula 3, modified Dallaras, ‘tweaked’ by legendary Japanese aerodynamicist Takuya Yura were typically quick, the #18 GC21, driven by Shinsuke Yamazaki / Yuji Aso / Masaru Tomizawa was quicker than ex-GT500 Hitotsuyama Ferrari.

Qualifying Times
1. LMP-1 #21 Dunlop Zytek 05S Hideki Noda / Hiroki Katoh 1:42:019
2. LMP-1 #16 Mugen Courage LC70 Seiji Ara / Haruki Kurosawa 1:43.104
3. LMP-2 #18 Aim Sports GC-21 Shinsuke Yamazaki / Yuji Aso / Masaru Tomizawa 1:51.637
4. LMGT-1 #20 Dunlop Ferrari 550GT1 Tatsuya Kataoka / Naoki Hattori / Eiichi Tajima 1:52.622
5. LMP-2 #4 Lav-Tec Myz GC21 Yuya Sakamoto / Yoshihisa Namekata / Tomonobu Fujii 1:53.698
6. LMP-2 #15 Magami Power Advan Myst RS Club Ryohei Sakaguchi / Masayuki Ueda / Motoaki Ishikawa 1:54.244
7. LMGT-2 #27 Shinwa Service RSR Koji Aoyama / Shinichi Takagi / Morio Nitta 1:55.927
8. LMP-2 #3 Lifework Bomex GC21 Masayuki Yamashita / Shogo Suho / Junichiro Yamashita 1:56.712
9. LMGT-2 #5 Team Takamizawa Bend Porsche Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Akihiko Tsutsumi / ”Jukucho” Sunako 1:57.492
10. LMGT1 #9 Arktech-LeyJun and A&S-MT OSAMU / Masaki Tanaka / Hiroya Iijima 1:59.754
- LMP-1 #66 Shimazawa Jidosha BP SK93 Takahiko Shimazawa / Hiroshi Ohta / Kenji Takeya 1:56.217
- LMGT-2 #7 Dream Angels Advan RX7 Naoko Ogiwara / Atsuko Ohmura 2:18.730

The #7 RX7 and #66 SK93 were allowed to start the race – but from the back because they could not set a time in the Saturday morning session, which was defined as ‘drivers’ qualifying’.

A warm-up session from 8:00 on a cloudy Sunday morning saw the #16 Courage Mugen in transmission trouble.

Warm-up Times
1. LMP-1 #21 Dunlop Zytek 05S Hideki Noda / Hiroki Katoh 1:48.151
2. LMP-2 #18 Aim Sports GC-21 Shinsuke Yamazaki / Yuji Aso / Masaru Tomizawa 1:56.849
3. LMP-2 Lav-Tec Myz GC21 Yuya Sakamoto / Yoshihisa Namekata / Tomonobu Fujii 2:00.198
4. LMP-1 #16 Mugen Courage LC70 Seiji Ara / Haruki Kurosawa 2:00.473
5. LMGT-1 #20 Dunlop Ferrari 550GT1 Tatsuya Kataoka / Naoki Hattori / Eiichi Tajima 2:01.973
6. LMGT-1 #9 Arktech-LeyJun and A&S-MT OSAMU / Masaki Tanaka / Hiroya Iijima 2:03.140
7. LMP-2 #15 Magami Power ADVAM Myst RS Club Ryohei Sakaguchi / Masayuki Ueda / Motoaki Ishikawa 2:04.170
8. LMP-1 #66 Shimazawa Jidosha BP SK93 Takahiko Shimazawa / Hiroshi Ohta / Kenji Takeya 2:04.633
9. LMGT-2 #27 Shinawa Service RSR Koji Aoyama / Shinichi Takagi / Morio Nitta 2:06.797
10. LMGT-2 #5 Team Takamizawa Bend Porsche Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Akihiko Tsutsumi / ”Jukucho” Sunako 2:07.268
11. LMP-2 #3 Lifework Bomex GC21 Masayuki Yamamoto / Shogo Suho / Junichiro Yamashita 2:21.003
12. LMGT-2 #7 Dream Angels Advan RX7 Naoko Ogiwara / Atsuko Ohmura 5:09.117

The Japan Le Mans Challenge has a more ‘laid-back’ atmosphere than Super GT. Classic Endurance Racing Japan supports the main race with, this time, the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan as well.

Classic Endurance Racing Japan comprises two classes: cars from 1923 to 1946 and from 1947 to 1978.

The Porsche Carrera Cup included Matthew Marsh as the VIP driver. According to Japanese regulations, the VIP driver has to start from the back of the grid, but Marsh still finished second. He may not have made Le Mans this year, but he managed a top ten finish at the Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Under cloudy skies, the second round of the JLMC got underway at 12.30.

The Courage could not make it onto the grid – and only ever managed seven laps in total: Haruki Kurosawa appeared, briefly, in the middle of the race, and Seiji Ara reappeared to see the chequered flag.

So that should have left the race to the Zytek, but that only reached lap 96 (of 203), leaving the lead to the #18 GC-21. These cars are modified for endurance racing, and are strong competitors.

But the #20 Ferrari 550 followed #18, from a lap behind. The LMP2 GC21 and LMGT1 Ferrari were well-matched rivals: – the Ferrari was quick on the straights but the GC21s are quicker than Ferrari in the corners.

The race would not end up running to the full 1000 km distance, after the Zytek retired, the race changing to a six hour event. #18 led the race for two hours in the middle, but its engine then blew, leaving the Ferrari 550 to take over, at five hours. The 550’s problems were related to heat: with the cool suit and drinks supply, and in-car temperatures, but the Italian car still came home in first place, ahead of the #4 GC21, two laps behind but winning the LMP2 class.

The winner of the LMGT2 class, the #27 Shinwa Service Porsche, was fourth overall, four laps behind the GT1 Ferrari. Their fuel consumption was terrific, and, with two professional drivers, they managed to beat the Team Takamizawa Porsche.

So with two of the three races of the maiden JLMC already run, the LMP1 champion car is - the #66 SK93. This car was made in 1993 (and hence running as number 93), and although it’s not super-quick, it is very reliable. It won the first race in May, at Sugo, after the Zytek had retired, and finished this race in sixth place, so it is the first champion of the Japanese Le Mans Challenge.

Takahiko Shimazawa offered the comment that “What should we do!? We have to decline the title, don’t we? We want the quicker cars to win the race, from race fan’s point of view.”

Result
1. LMGT-1 #20 Dunlop Ferrari 550GT1 Tatsuya Kataoka / Naoki Hattori / Eiichi Tajima 180 laps
2. LMP-2 #4 Lav-Tec Myz GC21 Yuya Sakamoto / Yoshihisa Namekata / Tomonobu Fujii 178 laps
3. LMP-2 #3 Lifework Bomex GC21 Masayuki Yamamoto / Shogo Suho / Junichiro Yamamoto 177 laps
4. LMGT-2 #27 Shinwa Service RSR Koji Aoyama / Shinichi Takagi / Morio Nitta 176 laps
5. LMGT-2 #5 Team Takamizawa BEND Porsche Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Akihiko Tsutsumi / ”Jukucho” Sunako 176 laps
6. LMP-1 #66 Shimazawa Jidosha BP SK93 Takahiko Shimazawa / Hiroshi Ohta / Kenji Takeya 158 laps
7. LMGT-1 #9 Arktech-LeyJun and A&S-MT OSAMU / Masaki Tanaka / Hiroya Iijima 144 laps
8. LMGT-2 #7 Dream Angels Advan RX7 Naoko Ogiwara / Atsuko Ohmura 137 laps
- LMP-1 #16 Mugen Courage LC70 Seiji Ara / Haruki Kurosawa 7 laps

DNF
LMP-2 #18 Aim Sports GC-21 Shinsuke Yamazaki / Yuji Aso / Masaru Tomizawa 158 laps
LMP-2 #15 Magami Power ADVAN Myst RS Club Ryohei Sakaguchi / Masayuki Ueda / Motoaki Ishikawa 128 laps
LMP-1 #21 Dunlop Zytek 05S Hideki Noda / Hiroki Katoh 95 laps

Fastest Lap: #21 Dunlop Zytek 05S 1:43.686

Although the LMP1 champion entry is decided already, the other classes are still open: even though the Ferrari has been victorious twice, overall, it hasn’t yet done enough to seal the GT1 class.

The final round of Japan Le Mans Challenge will be held in Okayama in 28-29 October. Aston Martin is rumoured to be joining the series for the final race.

 

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