Pacific D'Station Racing make the best of it at Fuji opener

Monday, July 20, 2020

Not the best way to go into any new season of motor racing without your factory supplied driver, the technical support that usually goes with a full Partner team and ongoing travel restrictions that have so far stopped on at least three occasions now all of that coming together as the Japanese based Pacific D'Station Racing AMR team finally embarked upon the opening round of the 2020 Super GT for Fuji Speedway at the weekend.

Usually the Prodrive team would send a handful of technicians over to Japan to support their Partner team as well as a factory driver if required (and this year that is none other than Nicki Thiim) as the team again enter one of their three available Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3's into their domestic championship within the GT300 class.

Sporting new tyres for this year, the team had hoped that at both official pre-season tests (either side of their lockdown period) that the whole package could come together before this delayed opening round to the season but like with the season itself, COVID-19 put the 'spanner' into most of that.

With both Thiim and the Prodrive technicians unable to travel into Japan without significant time being lost with self-isolation at either end of their travels, the team pressed ahead with testing at Fuji earlier this month with just Tomonobu Fujii behind the wheel but eventually had to call in the services of a temporary driver for the opening round(s) at Fuji in the form of Ferrari Asian Le Mans Series (and Japan based) racer Kei Cozzolino.

Experiencing some torrential rain and some rain affected Free Practice sessions going into Sundays race, all were surprised to see the sun shining, and dry track and Mt Fuji visible in the distance ahead of the start of the 66 lapper but for Cozzolino, that would be his first experiences of the Aston on Michelin slicks.

Having qualified the car P13 in the GT300 class of twenty nine cars, Fujii would start the race aboard the #9 car to run a near slit 50:50 race.

Featuring the usual staggered grid between the two classes, the faster GT500 were already underway and in trouble by the time the lesser GT300 cars crossed the line to start their race as contact between two GT500 cars up ahead brought out the Safety Car with less than a minute of race time on the clock.

Having lost four laps there, the further misfortunes with both the JLOC cars with punctures lifted the #9 car up to P10 in class as Fuji managed to keep both himself and the car out of trouble and as his stint clocked by and was able to climb as high as P7 in class by the time he pitted for fresh tyres and a driver change on lap 31.

Lap 37 saw another Safety Car period as a GT300 was left stranded and facing the wrong way at T13 after contact with a GT500 as Cozzolino brought himself up to speed in the differing conditions that he had experienced from earlier in the meeting.

Having ran on Yokohama's last year, the #9 car has become the exception this year being one of the few cars not to be running on Yokohamas this year but at least that (and the fact that they are against the sole AMR to enter) offers them a package that was different to the others - but then those differences could also be their Achilles heal too!

By the end of the 66 lap race Cozzolino brought home the AMR Vantage P10 in class to claim the last remaining championship point - already better than last year when the car posted their first of an unfortunate several DNF's.

The next round is also at Fuji - we don't know if Thiim will be with the team or not as only time and national travel restrictions will affect that. All we can do is wait and see.............!!

Photo credits - Pacific D'Station / Super GT

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