Photo: TCR Japan

Takuro Shinohara unstoppable in opening TCR Japan race at Suzuka

Runaway TCR Japan Saturday Series points leader Takuro Shinhara took another dominant victory in the opening race of the weekend at Suzuka.

The Audi Team Hitotsuyama driver fought back from a slow start to beat defending Sunday Series champion Takeshi Matsumoto by just over 16 seconds, while Rio Shimono rounded out the podium places in third.

The Friday encounter was billed as a Sunday Series race as it was the replacement round for the rained out second Sugo race from earlier in the year.

Shinohara initially got a poor start from pole and lost the lead to the fast-starting Hirobon off the line into the first corner before reclaiming the advantage following a big slide for the Cupra on exit.

Matsumoto dropped to third off the line and just clung onto the place after staving off an attack from Shirasaka on the opening lap.

Once in the clear, Shinohard leapt away in the lead, building a margi of nearly 16 seconds by the finish, as Hirobon bravely fended off Matsumoto for as long as he could.

Eventually, Matsumoto got passed into second in the closing minutes, as Hirobon again ran wide at Turn 1, to retain his Sunday Series points lead in the process.

Hirobon’s mistake gave Ryo Shimono the final step on the podium, in her Drago Racing Honda Civic Type-R. Hirobon did however finish fourth, just ahead of Shirasaka.

Reeshu Shioya was a distant sixth ahead Mineki Okura’s Alfa Romeo. Okura’s team-mate Junichi Umemoto was three seconds further back in eighth.

Kenji Suzuki was ninth after a difficult race in the Birth Racing Project BRP Audi RS 3 LMS, while pit-lane starter Mototino was the last classifed runner in 10th.

Race two at Suzuka is scheduled to start tomorrow at 10:55 local time (02:55 CET).