After a long winter break, Shinya was finally able to get back behind the wheel of a race car again. After running two years of Formula Renault in Japan, the move to the 550 HP Auto GP machine was going to be a massive step up. In addition to the learning curve with the car, Monza would be a new track for Shinya, as he had never driven on the track before Friday practice. He definitely had his work cut out for him in his debut in Auto GP, but Shinya was more than ready for the challenge.
On Friday there were two practice sessions and qualifying to manage during the day. This being a new track for Shinya, a lot of the practice session time was expected to be spent learning the circuit. However, much to the surprise of the team, Shinya was already up to speed after just 15 minutes, and managed to get the 5th fastest lap time in Free Practice 1. Free Practice 2 went much the same, with Shinya finishing the session with the 5th fastest lap time.
In Qualifying Session 1, Shinya comfortably set the 5th fastest lap time, which enabled him to make the cut for Qualifying Session 2. In Qualifying Session 2, Shinya managed to qualify 7th and was the highest qualifying driver of those that did not put on new tires for the session.
For Race 1, starting from 7th place, the plan was to make an early pit stop, and then to run blistering lap times with a clear track ahead. And Shinya was able to do just that. The Euronova pit crew gave him a lightning fast stop. Shinya then went out and was able to set the fastest lap of the race, an impressive feat in his debut event in Auto GP. He was able to consistently click off lap times close to the fast time he had set and was able to make some exciting moves, including a spectacular 3 wide pass. Spectators were enjoying watching him make his way through the field, with the TV camera following his car and showing the rookie’s progress as well. As the race went on and the other drivers came into the pits for their mandatory pit stops, Shinya continued to climb up the scoring sheet. With 3 laps to go, he was sitting in 4th place, right on the heels of the 3rd place driver, who was running lap times nearly a second off Shinya’s pace. Shinya was looking poised to grab a podium in his debut, when unfortunately, just before Lesmo 1, the drive shaft broke and Shinya was forced to retire from the race. A disappointing end, considering the tremendous effort put forward by the team and the good run that Shinya was having, but it is an unfortunate part of racing.
Race 2 would prove to be much more difficult to obtain a good result. Due to the mechanical DNF on Saturday, Shinya would have to start the race from 11th position on the grid. This also meant that there was only one strategy really that could be executed. Again, with an early solid pit stop from the Euronova crew, Shinya came out on a clear track and started to set blistering lap times as he had on Saturday. He consistently clicked off fast laps and gradually made his way up the scoring sheet, where he eventually finished the race in 6th position. Shinya had also been running with a few other challenges, as there was an issue with his pit lane speed limiter and some slight trouble with the radio communications. When the team factored in the time lost as a result of the pit lane speed limiter issue, a 4th place finish on Sunday would not have been out of the question. So all things considered, it was a solid finish.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on a potential podium on Saturday and the challenge of having to start far back on the grid on Sunday, all in all it was a successful debut weekend. Particularly with Shinya having set the fastest lap of the race and showing that he could consistently run at a good pace, it became clear that together, Shinya and Team Euronova Racing are capable of obtaining very good results in the future.
Shinya: “Well, what an exciting weekend! My debut race weekend in Europe, Auto GP, and at Monza; I think it was a successful weekend. It would have been nice to get a podium as I feel that we were more than capable of it, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. The team and I can definitely take away some positives from the weekend though. The car was unbelievably good in race trim, the race strategy was superb, I was able to set fastest lap time, and despite my massive lack of experience compared to the other drivers in the series, I was able to immediately get up to pace and run at the front. I think in the coming races, with my growing experience, we can start to get good results, and even victories are not out of the question. I am really looking forward to racing at Imola in the coming weeks. Like Monza, it is a classic Grand Prix circuit that has had so many great races in the past. But again, it is a track that I have never run at before and is a very challenging track, so I have my work cut out for me. But together, with this amazing team of mechanics, engineers, and leaders, Team Euronova, I am confident that we can do well.”
“I am so grateful for this opportunity and again I want to thank everyone who is supporting me; Plan Z, Ramblas, Nitro, Perfect Shine, Arai Helmets, Taylor & Cutter, GO Designs, Minami Aoyama Network, Oktane Visual, Real Power, Euronova Racing, friends, family, and all my supporters. For sure we will do our best to get even better results at Imola.”
Shinya’s next event will be at Imola on June 28th and 29th, for the next round of the Auto GP Series.