Keiko Ihara, part of the Eurasia driver line-up at Zhuhai for the opening round is at Fuji in a different capacity, helping promotion for her ‘Women in Motorsport’ initiative to help promote and assist talented female drivers to progress.
Ihara (below) is set to see some track action over the weekend, providing ‘hot laps’ aboard a 2 seater Ligier LMP3 car for VIP guests and is accompanied here by young Super Taikyu racer Marie Iwaoki.
Whilst the battle is on to add numbers to the Asian Le Mans Series grid, though a boost is expected for the pair of 2018 races in Buriram (Thailand) and Sepang (Malaysia), thee’s no shortage of spare cars around in Fuji, awaiting the opportunity to accommodate additional drivers.
TKS have one of their pair of spare (ex ARC Bratislava) Ginetta LMP3s on site, FIST Team AAI have their second BMW M6 GT3, relatively fresh from Macau!
KCMG have their second FRD LMP3 Ligier in the paddock whilst there is a second spare Ligier JS P3 on site being utilised in 2 seater form for Keiko Ihara’s ‘hot laps’ and a spare Ligier JSP2 that came mighty close to being on the entry this weekend for Craft Bamboo (who hold a free entry courtesy of their success in the FRD LMP3 Series).
TKS should name a third driver on Friday morning for their Ginetta LMP3 effort, their current declared line-up, Shinyo Sano and Yuta Kamimura a Silver/ Silver combo, forbidden under Series rules. The team intend to confirm a Bronze ranked driver in time for track action to begin.
Sunday’s 4 hour race should see Marko Asmer’s first ever race start in an LMP3 car, the ex Single seater star has been racing in Blancpain GT of late, his racing programmes hampered, he feels, by his Platinum driver status, earned courtesy of the 2007 British F3 Championship and a factory testing contract for BMW in F1. “There have been options, but they are impossible as a Platinum, I have asked for this to be looked at again after a decade but with no response.”
Asmer has raced at Fuji several times before, in Formula 3 and, notably, in the GT300 class of the Super GT Championship in the ‘Mother chassied’ Toyota GT86.
John Graham is grappling again with some licensing issues courtesy of the Canadian ASN, it is though not the first time he has featured in an international sportscar event here at Fuji Speedway, John was entered in the C2 class in a Gebhart Cosworth back in 1985!
1995 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Masanori Sekiya is again o site for this event, the #59 McLaren driver and long time ex Toyota factory driver the chef du camp for his Inter Proto Series, featuring a bespoke one-make ‘track-only’ GT car with c.400 bhp Toyota power.
The cars (13 on site this weekend) are all owned by Gentleman drivers though they are supported across a race weekend by an array of eye-catching Pro talent.
Included in the Pro line-up are: 2017 Super GT Drivers Champion Ryo Hirakawa, runners up Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli, plus 2017 Super Formula Champion (and fourth in the GT500 drivers standings) Hiroaki Ishiura. Add in several other GT500, GT300 and Super Formula talents, plus ex F1 man Vitantonio Liuzzi and there’s fun in store when the cars hit the track today in earnest!