TCR Japan: Anna Inotsume wins again in season finale at Suzuka
After her first win in Fuji, Anna Inotsume won again in TCR Japan at the iconic Suzuka circuit, completing both the Saturday and Sunday Series as Vice-Champion, having secured 2 wins and 10 podiums.
Japanese racer Anna Inotsume took another win in TCR Japan, one month after her maiden victory in the series at the previous round in Fuji.
In the supporting race of the WEC 6 Hours of Fuji, Inotsume won in Sunday's Series - as the Japanese-based TCR championship features separate classifications for the two races over the weekend. At the Suzuka season finale, Inotsume managed to get a win in the Saturday's Series as well, as she sits second in both standings.
In the morning qualifying, the driver of the #98 Honda Civic TCR had already clinched pole position, with a time of 2:12.444, preceding the #65 Audi RS3 LMS driven by Masanobu Kato and the #55 Honda Civic of Mototino.
Saturday's Series final race of the season went underway under clear skies at the iconic Suzuka Circuit, home of the F1 Japanese GP; Inotsume got away well at the standing start and held position from Kato at Turn 1. Soon after, though, Mototino was able to claim the lead of the race with a double pass.
His lead was not long-lived, as Anna Inotsume fought back and made a clean pass for P1 at the chicane on the first lap - with Kato seizing the opportunity to slot into second as well.
Despite carrying 40kg of success ballast, Anna Inotsume pulled away from the rest of the pack in a dominant performance.
Behind her, a train of four cars engaged in a close battle for the podium that saw Kato, Shioya, Mototino and Hirobon trading places. The latter had started from sixth with a 50kg ballast and struggled to get past Mototino; on lap 5, Shioya went off at the second Degner curve and eventually retired.
With unmatched pace, Anna Inotsume won her first race of the Saturday Series with a 13 second gap over Kato and Mototino, who was successful in his defense.
With the victory,
The final race of the Saturday Series, Anna Inotsume completed the championship in second place at 129 points, 12 points behind Hirobon. She collected one victory and four second place finishes over six races.
The final race of the Sunday Series followed the day after; Anna Inotsume kept momentum and secured another pole position at Suzuka, signing a 2:11.596 lap that put her #98 Honda Civic TCR clear of Resshu Shioya and the Cupra driven by championship leader Hirobon.
After qualifying, Inotsume trialed Hirobon by 18 points in the drivers' standings - as the winner of Saturday's race kept her title chances alive: to win the Sunday Series, though, Inotsume would need to win, with Hirobon seventh or lower.
In another sunny autumn afternoon, race 2 went green: just like the previous day, though, Inotsume had a troubled start and was overtaken by Shioya - who took the lead at Turn 1. Right in Shioya's gearbox, Inotsume tried to fight back and made three attempts at the chicane - before ultimately finding her way through on lap 5.
The battle between the two continued and unfortunately ended up in a collision that dropped Inotsume to fifth place, as Suzuki, Mototino and Hirobon were ready to pick up the pieces.
Hirobon made a comeback and moved up to second place after another clash between Suzuki and Mototino - and closed in on Shioya: the championship leader was able to get within a few tenths of a second, but could not complete a pass for first place.
Resshu Shioya took his first win of the season, preceding Hirobon and Kenji Suzuki - who claimed his first podium this year.
While Hirobon took Sunday Series title as well, Anna Inotsume was vice-champion in both series: she finished a remarkable year with four podiums, one win and 121 points - as she will look ahead to another exciting year of racing in 2023.