"Big changes" pay dividends for Rookie Racing at Fuji
Toyota SUPER GT driver Kazuya Oshima was left encouraged by "big changes" made to the Rookie Racing GR Supra in last weekend's Fuji Speedway pre-season test.
Following two low-key tests at Okayama and Suzuka, the #14 Toyota shared by Oshima and Kenta Yamashita enjoyed a much more competitive showing at Fuji, ending up second-fastest over the course of the two days.
Yamashita's best lap in the Eneos-liveried car was only 0.189s off the pace set by TOM'S Toyota driver Sho Tsuboi.
After the Okayama test, 2019 SUPER GT champions Oshima and Yamashita both suggested that one-lap pace, which was a weakness of the #14 car last year, remained a problem despite displaying promising long-run speed.
But Oshima was in a much more bullish mood speaking to Motorsport.com at Fuji, a track he now feels the team is in a position to challenge for victory.
"At the beginning of the test we were still struggling with the set-up, but in the afternoon we tried some big changes and it worked very well," Oshima said. "Also the long run feels very nice. We can be very strong for the race.
"It’s a really big difference. We can’t say what exactly, just that it’s a big improvement."
However, Oshima cautioned that the very different track characteristics of Okayama mean there's no guarantee the breakthrough will translate into success in next weekend's opening race.
"This set-up works at Fuji, but we haven’t tried it at Okayama," he said. "We need to check there and try to adjust it. But definitely for Round 2 we can be a real contender."
Kazuya Oshima（#14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Rookie Racing officially made its debut on Toyota's GT500 roster last year, but the GR Supra driven by Oshima and Tsuboi was operated as a second car by fellow Toyota team Cerumo.
Now the team has established a fully-independent structure for its sophomore year, Oshima says he is eager to earn its first win - especially with Eneos having returned as a sponsor after five years away.
"I really want to get a win," he said. "The team has just started, and also the sponsor has changed as Eneos has come back. I last drove the Eneos car in 2015 [for Team LeMans] and it’s nice to be back with them, many of the people are still the same now. I want to get a win for them."
On the chances of adding to he and Yamashita's 2019 title win, Oshima said: "I think we have a big chance for a second championship. But Honda looks very strong and Nissan is getting stronger again.
"It should be a three-way fight this year and I think also Michelin is getting better. Also Dunlop is strong, so for sure it will be a very tough season."
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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