FNIPPON: Japan Tom Coronel Review

Tom Coronel rounds off Japanese GT season with a victory Tom Coronel, the freshly crowned Formula Nippon champion, rounded off his racing season in style. Together with his teammate Hidetoshi Mitsusada the Dutchman won the Nicos Cup Allstar...

Tom Coronel rounds off Japanese GT season with a victory

Tom Coronel, the freshly crowned Formula Nippon champion, rounded off his racing season in style. Together with his teammate Hidetoshi Mitsusada the Dutchman won the Nicos Cup Allstar GT race at the Autopolis circuit in the south of Japan. As the race is a non championship event the teams were free of the handicap weight that they 'earned' during the past season. As in last year's All Star race the Mobil 1 Nakajima Honda NSX proved to be successful. Coronel and Mitsusada won the race with a margin of 3.5s to the Honda NSX of Takahashi and Iida. As a result of this race Tom had to miss the Mobil 1 Autosport Awards gala in The Netherlands where he was elected as "Best international racing driver 1999". His twin brother Tim took the honours and collected the trophy for Tom.

"In the free practice session we were already on top of the list", Tom started his story of the weekend. In this session his main opponent was the nr.1 Nissan Skyline driven by double GT Champion Erik Comas and the man with whom he fought out the Formula Nippon championship, Satoshi Motoyama. The Dutchman was immediately enthusiastic when he saw the track for the first time on Friday morning. "This is absolutely one of the most beautiful tracks I have ever driven on. It has a perfect mix of fast and slow corners. The circuit was built with government-support and is situated on a volcanic island. It is equipped with good looking grandstands that were occupied by the many, many race fans this weekend, despite the unfavourable weather conditions. One of the practice sessions was held in a temperature close to zero! My teammate did most of the laps during free practice to get used to the track. As for me I used the first three laps to get the heat into the tyres in order to set a qualifying time over the next two laps. The time I set was good enough for pole position, just like in the All Star race at Aida last year. As in the last few races Mitsusada started the race and used our pole position to the maximum. After about 20 laps he came in for the obligatory pitstop. Driver change, four new tyres and a full load of fuel were completed in exactly 21 seconds. We have never been that fast this year. Despite the low outside temperature I attacked from the first moment I drove out of the pits. Partly due to the new tyres I built up a lead of 12 seconds. From then on I decided to consolidate the lead. Ahead of me there were some backmarkers battling for position, but I decided to leave it like that. I didn't take any more risks, especially when the hail and snow started to come down. I stayed behind the group of backmarkers which cost me some of my margin, but victory was never in danger. After I passed the finish mr. Nakajima thanked me for the victory and a great season. The same I can say to him. I think we can look back on a wonderful and exciting season with the Nakajima team".

Tom Coronel can now prepare himself for the many award celebrations that are waiting for him in Japan and the Netherlands. Furthermore he will be present at the Speed and Design exhibition which will be held from 8 until 12 December in Utrecht in The Netherlands. There the PIAA Nakajima Reynard Mugen that Tom drove in the 1998 Formula Nippon championship can be seen.

Tom Coronel is supported this year by Marlboro, Bakker Bart/Fitkorn, Mobil1. McGregor, Bridgestone, Apex and Honda.

Autopolis, 28 November 1999 - www.coronel.nl

1. Tom Coronel/H.Mitsusada (Honda Mobil 1 NSX) 1.46.04.232, 2. K. Takahashi/A. Iida (Honda NSX) + 3.524; 3. A. Suzuki/M. Krumm (Nissan Skyline) + 38.378; 4. E. Comas/S. Motoyama (Nissan Skyline); + 48.405 5. O. Nakako/R. Michigami (Honda NSX) + 1.37.696 6. M. Sekiya/T. Kurosawa (Toyota Supra) + 1.55.827.

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