2012 Motegi Charity Race
The 2012 Motegi Charity Race was a 100 lap race around the Twin Ring Motegi oval and the first of two non-championship races held in Japan to raise funds for the devastating 2011 Japanese Earthquakes. It was won by Japanese driver Barii Mori.
The 30 minute long qualifying session brought much frantic activity as the cars looked for clear space. In the end a quarter of a second covered the entire field with MRT supersub Phillippe Nicolas scoring pole position. Jari Kekkonen was on the outside of the front row in the ArrowTech car in a surprisingly strong showing for the team. Budweiser 500 winner Hagane Shizuka, in his first race for Sunshine Infiniti, was only 3 hundredths of a second away from pole but was only 6th on the grid behind Chris Dagnall.
Early on and it was a four way tussle for the lead between polesitter Nicolas, Kay Lon, Hagane Shizuka and Douglas Mann with Mann eventually winning out to lead 32 of the opening 40 laps. Frank Zimmer was the first of the retirements by hitting the outside wall at turn 4 on lap 4 in what had been a quite weekend for the Australian. Nicolas followed suit soon after by hitting the wall at turn 2 whilst running second. There was a short period around lap 20 where it was on for young and old first Rhys Davies and Thomas De Bock got together in the midfield putting Davies out of the race and forcing De Bock to take a trip down pitlane. Richie White then hit the wall a few laps later with Phoenix McAllister collecting some of the debris forcing a stop for a new front wing. While all this was happening Sammy Jones' Renault engine cried enough in the last race ever of the Marlboro Jones team which added insult to injury in what had been a horrific week for the Englishman.
The race then settled into a rhythm before the two stoppers filed in between laps 33 and 40. By that stage Pippa Mann had made her way up to second behind older brother Douglas and was the first of the two Foxdales to pit on lap 39. Douglas came in next lap but the crew weren't ready for him which cost him half a lap and in hindsight a possible top 5 finish. The one-stoppers in the midfield were rubbing their hands with glee as Chris Dagnall found himself in the lead by over half a lap over the next one stoppers Jari Kekkonen and Barii Mori.
Dagnall was leading comfortably until heartbreakingly his Renault powerplant also blew up after the halfway point. Not that it mattered much to Lon had found the wall at this point and was out of the race. This left Kekkonen and Mori to battle it out for the lead whilst trying to lap some of the two stoppers who had already made their stops. Kekkonen led a few laps before Mori found a way past and he led until his stop on lap 65. Shinobu Katayama assumed the lead of the race in front of her home crowd for a few laps before she too made her pitstop which handed the lead to Aurelien Moll before he made a pitstop on lap 75.
Ashley Watkinson up to this point had been incredibly quiet by his standards in the HRT suddenly found himself in the lead of the race with 25 to go and seemed to be on track for the win. However Mori was driving like a man possessed and was catching him hand over fist. The two got into a battle for the lead before Mori got by with 10 to go and went on to win the race in front of his countrymen from 17th on the grid. Watkinson finished second while Nathanael Spencer in the MRT finished 3rd ahead of Tristan Jung and Kekkonen.