Dramatic weekend for Tom Coronel at Fuji
The fourth round of the Japanese GT series was held at the Japanese Fuji Speedway. Originally the race was set to be held at Sepang in Malaysia, but due to the SARS outbreak in the nearby area the event was cancelled and rescheduled for Fuji. For Dutchman Tom Coronel and his Japanese teammate Daisuke Ito it would be a weekend to forget quickly.
The G'ZOX Mugen NSX team was hit by trouble already in the free practice session on Friday. " As we entered our pits we were hit by another car which created quite some damage. Fortunately the team was able to repair the car in time for Saturday's qualifying session. However bad luck stroke again on Saturday. My teammate Daisuke Ito went off in a big way on his second lap. The whole rear of the car was just gone - as were our chances for qualifying. The crew was now down to work hard through the night to get the car ready for the race."
Unlike the regular schedule the race was to be held in two separate heats. The first one over 30 laps was shortened to 20 laps due to the bad weather. Rain, mist and everything that came close to it was thrown out over the circuit. "My teammate started the race from 16th place. Despite the bad circumstances he managed to gain two placed which brought him in 14th place. I was to drive the second heat which started with a safety car period. When the race got underway it was raining even harder than before. It was a typical Fuji monsoon day. On the first lap one of the cars ahead of me spun which brought back the safety car again for another ten laps. Furthermore the race distance was shortened from 50 to 30 laps. This greatly reduced my chances to move up some places", Coronel concluded. The Dutchman ended his race in tenth place and was not satisfied with the result. However he made clear that the best performance of the weekend was made by the G'ZOX Mugen NSX crew who transformed the remains of the nr. 16 NSX on Saturday into a decent racecar for Sunday's race.
Overall victory went to the Nissan equipe Yuji Ide - Benoit Treluyer, ahead of fellow Skyline drivers Masami Kageyama - Richard Lyons and the Toyota Supra of Dominik Schwager and Manabu Orida. Tom Coronel and Daisuke Ito were classified in 12th place in the combined results.
The participation of Tom Coronel in the Japanese GT Championship is made possible by his Dutch sponsors : McGregor, Apex, Castrol, Bridgestone, Autobedrijf Beelen and Clifford.