Anna Inotsume claims maiden TCR Japan victory at Fuji
Japanese driver Anna Inotsume claimed her first win in TCR with a dominant second race at Fuji - as she remains in contention for the title ahead of the season finale at Suzuka.
Anna Inotsume is certainly not an inexperienced driver when it comes to touring cars and national championships, but she came under the international spotlight in 2019, when she entered her first round of the Asian Le Mans Series and was later invited at the second edition of the all-female W Series selections at Almeria.
Inotsume then made appearances in TCR Japan in 2021, where she scored a podium and a fastest lap out of 2 races in the Saturday series - before tackling the full season in 2022.
The Japanese-based TCR - which assigns points in two different classifications for the Saturday and Sunday's races - already saw a female winner in 2020, as Rio Shimono claimed the title in the Saturday series, bronze category.
Inotsume, currently second in the standings of both Saturday and Sunday's series, went on to climb the top step of the podium for the first time at Fuji International Speedway on Sunday, after taking a dominant win in the support race of the FIA WEC 6H race.
Championship leader Hirobon won on Saturday, beating Inotsume from pole position; From second on the grid, Inotsume was initially overtaken by Masanobu Kato and Junichi Agematsu, as Hironobu pulled away. With a charging race, Anna was able to complete her comeback by passing Agematsu on lap 6 and Kato on the final corner of the last lap.
But it would be in Race 2 that Inotsume was finally able to top her previous best finish and utterly dominated the race, crossing the finish line ahead of championship rival Hirobon after 14 laps around the former home of the Japanese GP.
Mineki Okura was briefly in the lead on the first lap, but he could do nothing to defend from Anna Inotsume, who then led every lap.
Okura was then under pressure from Hirobon, Agematsu and Kato; their battle allowed Inotsume to stretch her lead. On the final lap, Okura's Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR lost power and eventually retired, as Hirobon and Masanobu Kato advanced into podium positions.
While Hironobu clinched Saturday's series title, Anna Inotsume remains in contention for the Sunday's series championship: she now reduced the gap to 20 points, with 30 more on the table in the season finale at Suzuka on 28/30 October.