Tom Coronel second in opening race Formula Nippon at Suzuka Under extremely wet circumstances the Formula Nippon championship was kicked off at Suzuka. Tom Coronel feels quite confortable in Suzuka as was proved by his second place in the race....
Tom Coronel second in opening race Formula Nippon at Suzuka
Under extremely wet circumstances the Formula Nippon championship was kicked off at Suzuka. Tom Coronel feels quite confortable in Suzuka as was proved by his second place in the race. In practice he was hit by fuel pressure problems and had to start from third place on the grid. After a perfect start where Tom took the lead before the first corner Satoshi Motoyama took over the lead. Coronel, who drives for the PIAA Nakajima, team dropped back to second and managed to maintain his position until the end of the race. Witnessed by 38.000 brave racefans who withstood the rain Tom Coronel scored his first podium place in Formula Nippon.
After two perfect days of testing at the Motegi circuit where he was fastest last week, Tom and the Nakajima team were in a high spirit when they came to Suzuka. However during practice bad luck seemed to strike the Dutchman. Both in Friday's and Saturday's practice sessions the Reynard-Mugen of Coronel suffered from fuel pressure problems. "When I went out with a full tank there was no problem, the car was perfect. However when the tank became empty the fuel supply started to hamper. At the end of qualifying it became so bad that I could not drive the last two laps. These final laps in the session are vital as you drive with a low fuel load and thus a light car. Because of this I could not do better that a third place", Tom said.
During the warm-up on Sunday the rain was bucketing down on the Suzuka circuit. Tom did not come any further that a ninth time, with a distance of 3.5s to Motoyama. "During the warm-up it appeared that we had chosen the wrong setup and we had to make a change for the race. As I am only interested in a podium position I decided to make a radical change to the car. Although you take a lot of risk with such a change I felt that it would improve things for us".
When the cars were positioned on the startgrid before the race a big cloud of smoke developed in Tom's car. However there was little time to go before the start and the Nakajima mechanics could not find out the cause of the problem. Due to a stalled engine from one of the other cars the startprocedure was abandoned. "When I rolled to my place on the grid for the restart again there was a big cloud in my cockpit. I could not do anything than to take the start and see if the problem would solve itself". The start was really one from the book for Tom. From third place on the grid he took the lead immediately en lead the field into the first corner. However reigning champion Satoshi Motoyama, who started from fifth, was even quicker and managed to pass the Dutchman in the second turn on the outside. Motoyama took a lot of risk there as visibility was less that extremely poor due to the heavy rain. Anyway he managed to keep his car on the track an build up a lead. Tom: Visibility was really bad an Motoyama did not have to do much to drive away from the rest. I tried to run close to him but I really did not see anything". Tom managed to consolidate his position and finished the race in a fine second place. "The team was really happy with this result, just like me, especially with the problems we had before the start. Almost literally we saw our race go up in smoke. For me it is the first podium place in Formula Nippon. Looking at the problems we had in practice and the result we scored today I think that there is a lot more to come this year", was the delighted reaction of Tom Coronel.
After the race the team found what caused the smoke in the cockpit before the start. The sub tank, a reservoir where the oil stock for the engine is, was leaking. This caused the oil to spill on the hot engine which caused the smoke. Thankfully this did not harm Tom's race of today.
Tom Coronel is sponsored this year by Marlboro, McGregor, Bakkerij Bart and Mobil 1.
1. Satoshi Motoyama 1:17'24.252 2. Tom Coronel 10.242 sec. 3. Hidetoshi Mitsusada 22.250 sec. 4. Peter Dumbreck 1'35.852 sec. 5. Yuji Tachikawa 1'38.503 sec. 6. Ryo Michigami 1'57.051 sec.