Yasuhiro Shimizu Porsche Carrera Cup Japan 2009 Champion The two last races of the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan took place this weekend at Suzuka. Eighteen drivers split into two classes (A and B) have fought it out at the wheel of Porsche 911GT3s...
Yasuhiro Shimizu Porsche Carrera Cup Japan 2009 Champion
The two last races of the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan took place this weekend at Suzuka. Eighteen drivers split into two classes (A and B) have fought it out at the wheel of Porsche 911GT3s (Type 997) at major circuits around the country. The final two rounds were support races for the Formula One Grand Prix that took place under Suzuka's brightest sun with Yasuhiro Shimizu clinching the championship title and Michael Kim finishing first in Class B.
Described as "a real driver's circuit," the Suzuka track is known for its demanding first sector "esses" and the higher speed corners towards the end of the lap that require real precision and a good car set-up. Both races were won by the poleman, in the first race this meant Yoshihiro Nakamura and in the second Yasuhiro Shimizu.
It was good clean start for both drivers as races were dry, sunny and warm, as opposed to Friday afternoon's wet qualifying. On Friday, Porsche Carrera Cup Japan 2009 drivers proved themselves more adventurous than F1 drivers as they did not hesitate to qualify in heavy rain on a track where the F1 drivers were reluctant to drive more than 10 laps during their sessions, keeping it to an average 5-8 for most of them.
In race 1, championship leader Michael Kim overtook Motoyoshi Yoshida on the second lap, stuck to his fourth place and kept pushing for the rest of the race. On the fourth lap the leading positions were unchanged apart from Akira Mizutani. From lap four, the gap decreased at the front as Shimizu closed to only 0.5 seconds behind Nakamura. The race became slightly more comfortable for the leader as Shimizu fell to a second behind as of lap seven. Down the order, Mizutani continued to attack and took seventh place back from Kazuyoshi Takamizawa.
The suspense on the final lap of race 1 was high, but Nakamura took the win as the chequered flag fell on the penultimate race of the Championship.
In race 2, Yasuhiro Shimizu kept control of the race from start to finish. Tsuzuki fought hard with Nakamura but everyone kept their positions. Mizutani dropped to the back but by lap six had climbed back strongly to 11th. By lap seven, leader Shimizu had opened up an impossible margin of 7.1 seconds. The winner of race 1, Yoshihiro Nakamura, had started race 2 from 2nd place despite winning race 1, since Shimizu had clocked the fastest lap in race 1 and, as per the rules, became the poleman for race 2. Nakamura finished race 2 in 3rd place.
Nakamura likes racing on the Suzuka track. His first race on this Suzuka circuit was in Formula 4 last year and his prefered corner is 130R. But according to him, "each of Suzuka's corners is a challenge." He has shown himself to be a true fighter who won two races in one weekend at Sugo (round 6 and 7). He intended to do the same here in Suzuka. "I am so pleased with the race 1 win. Firstly, my pole was a great job, even if I regretted to have set my best time only on my last 11th lap. I should have managed this result quicker according to my mechanics, but I did not push too hard because I do not have so much experience on this track. I was a bit worried for the start as sometimes I am not such a good starter. I had a lucky start and I remained very focused and made no mistakes even when I was under attack from Shimizu, who got closer to me mid-race and was pushing really hard. I am really sad to see the series ending this weekend. I had good fun all season and good results in my last races, so I am quite satisfied with the way I finished race 2. It was a very tiring race and I had a very tight fight with Tsuzuki. We passed each other several times. In the end I am happy with my 2nd place finish in the Championship but it is not enough for me. I want to come back next year and be the one who wins the Championship."
The winner of race 2, and Champion of the series, Class A's Yasuhiro Shimizu said, "I originally started driving in the Super endurance formula so I know Suzuka a bit. In the rain, the surface changed a lot and we had more grip than expected so the lap times improved compared to last year. I had a good season with five consecutive poles. My goal was to win here and I thought I had a good chance this weekend." Shimizu explained his race 1 experience: "After the start, which was fine, I tried to pass Nakamura-san, but Hanawa-san blocked me. During the race I controlled him and did not let him through. I did not stop my efforts against Nakamura until the very end of the race, but there was not much I could do even if our fight was very exciting. We missed a couple of laps in this race. It could have been different but I am so pleased because I clocked the fastest lap." Shimizu was proud to have started race 2 in pole position. "I have done it, no doubt. In race 2, the first corner was difficult, then there as a big gap and I pushed to stay there. I won the Suzuka race, the most spectacular race of the year and on top of it, all in front of all the F1 crowds and the TV. I am proud to be the series' Champion and I am relieved. This is a great improvement from last year where I finished 3rd."
Class A's Sho Hanawa finished 3rd overall in the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan Championship, with a 3rd place result in race 1 and a 4th place finish in race 2. The memory of his best race last month at Fuji is still vivid. "I had a good chance of winning here, but Suzuka is a difficult track. It is very long and no mistakes can be made. Right away you need a good lap. I had a small hesitation at turn one where I felt that I was oversteering and for a fraction of second, I remembered my heavy accident in April last year and I slowed down. But then I had already forgotten it by the second corner. I am pleased with my performance in race 1 even if I feel I could have finished stronger. The car was not fast enough, that's all. In race 2, I was hoping to do better and to beat the leaders, but I took no risks. It was simply too tight all the time and I never found the right gap. In the end, I am 3rd overall in the classification and this is a perfect result."
Class B's Michael Kim is the leader of Class B in the championship and finished 4th in race 1 and 5th in race 2. ¬ He commented, "My friends pushed me to race two years ago. I arrived in Suzuka with a strong 148 points and I leave leading my class. I felt threatened like Jenson Button, hence the nickname 'Jenson' that everyone has given me in the Porsche paddock. In the end, I needed to win the two races here, but it did not go the way I wanted. I started from 4th after an average qualifying for race 1, and then I finished 4th after a bad start where I lost positions. I wanted a clean second race but I started and finished in 5th position."
Michael lives in Tokyo and does not practise frequently here at Suzuka. "Every corner is tricky, difficult, technical and challenging. I want to thank my mechanics for their dedication and say that I am happy with the result in the 2009 Japan championship. See you next year for another good fight."