The #32 Rookie Racing-entered Toyota Corolla H2 Concept completed 358 laps in the Super Taikyu blue riband, putting it 47th overall out of 52 starters and sixth and last in the ST-Q class for cars not conforming to any specific technical regulations.
Driving duties were shared by Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda (racing as ‘Morizo’), SUPER GT racer Hiroaki Ishiura, Masahiro Sasaki, Yasuhiro Ogawa and special guest Jari-Matti Latvala, who was making his second outing in the race.
Toyota had to revamp the design of its hydrogen racer for the Fuji enduro after a testing fire prior to the opening round of the Super Taikyu season at Suzuka forced the manufacturer to withdraw the car.
The design of the piping around the engine bay was modified, moving it further away from the hot exhaust manifolds that have the potential to ignite any leaking hydrogen, with so-called ‘safety covers’ installed at piping joints. Weight savings of 50kg were also made since pre-season testing.
Sasaki set the Corolla’s fastest lap in qualifying, a 2m02.567s – around four seconds slower than last year’s Fuji 24 Hours, when it was still powered by gaseous hydrogen. The fastest race lap of 2m02.760s was set by Ishiura.
One of the benefits of switching to liquid hydrogen was increasing the car’s cruising range, and this was borne out by the fact the #32 machine completed the 24 hours with only 25 pitstops, compared to 41 in 2022, for an average of 14.3 laps per stint.
However, the reduction in performance, combined with two scheduled stops to replace the fuel tank pump, meant the car could only match its lap tally from the car’s debut with gaseous hydrogen in 2021, falling some way short of the 478 laps achieved last year.
As well as a smooth debut for its revamped hydrogen car, Rookie Racing was also able to celebrate overall victory in the ST-X class with its Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo shared by SUPER GT regulars Naoya Gamou, Hibiki Taira and Tatsuya Kataoka, plus gentleman racer Ryuta Ukai.
Gamou was able to recover a two-lap deficit to the leading GTNET MotorSports Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, partly the result of a penalty for overtaking under the safety car, passing the car driven by gentleman driver Joe Shindo with less than 30 minutes left on the clock.
The gap between the two cars at the finish was just under 47 seconds, both cars completing 730 laps.
#14 中升 ROOKIE AMG GT3
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Five laps down on the leaders, third went to the KCMG Honda NSX GT3 ahead of the Helm Motorsports Nissan in which Jann Mardenborough was making his return to top-line racing after a long absence.
The Helm car had led the opening part of the race only to lose time with a stop to repair a broken brake rotor.
Best of the ST-Q class cars was the carbon neutral fuel-powered Nissan Z Racing Concept operated by the works NISMO team, which finished eighth overall and on the same lap as the ST-X class-winning Saitama Toyopet Toyota Supra GT4 (both cars completed 685 laps).
Honda’s CNF-powered, Team HRC-entered Civic Type R was fifth of the six ST-Q runners home and 44th overall on 520 laps – finishing behind CNF machines from Toyota and Subaru, as well as Mazda’s biofuel-powered racer.
Additional reporting by Kazuya Minakoshi
Source: Boxing News 24