Yukio Kagayama: Ray of hope seen at Autopolis
Three months since the dramatic win at SUGO, Yukio Kagayama set foot at Autopolis, for the 6th Round of the Japan Road Race Championship. During this long interval, Kagayama finished a back-to-back 3rd place podium finish at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, and continued testing for Dunlop Tires at Okayama International Circuit. With a new spec Yoshimura engine, Kagayama was all prepared to close the gap between the top teams.
The race weekend was a double feature race with the Super Formula Series, the top category for open wheel car racing in Japan. Without any pre-race testing, Kagayama used Friday to set-up the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and had to make the decision in the tire choice for the weekend. Kagayama allowed the top 6 to run away from him at the 2nd round of the series held earlier this year at Autopolis, but he already felt the gap has been closer on day 1 of the race weekend.
Qualifying took place in the Knockdown format, with a 40 minute Q1, and a 15 minute Q2 where the top 10 riders from Q1 advances. Although Kagayama used Q1 to set up his Suzuki GSX-R1000 for the race, he still finished 6th fastest and advanced to Q2. In Q2, Kagayama does everything he can to go faster, and laps his best at 1’49.105. Although, this time only secured him a 6th grid, the gap of 0.825 seconds with the pole sitter, made Kagayama more confident for the race.
Autopolis was famous for its deep fog and unstable climate, but his race weekend was blessed with great weather. Race day became the best, with a air temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, which brought many fans to the race track.
Kagayama makes a great start from the second row, and goes into Turn 1 in 2nd position. He immediately moved himself up to lead the race, however a crash at the home straight right after the first lap, forces a red flag. The race had to be restarted in the same grid position, and was reduced to 14 laps.
Kagayama makes an another great start at restart, and just like a replay, goes into Turn 1 in 2nd position again. He once again moved himself up to lead the race, but drops to 3rd position in Lap 2. Kagayama ran a racing line focused on acceleration, but this made him drop to 8th in the 3rd lap. By the time, he moved up to 7th, the race leaders were already way in front of him. After two riders crashed, later on in the race, Kagayama finished 5th.
“Although a 5th place finish is not satisfactory, this was the first dry race this year that I could actually push hard. I was able to catch the forerunners in the middle of the race, and I feel that the gap with the leaders are now closer. I would like to thank my fans for supporting me at Autopolis. I will try my best in the remaining 3 races in 2 rounds left this year, and finish at a better result so that my supporters can be happy.”