Kiwi endurance driver Jono Lester has seen another opportunity for victory in the Super Taikyu Series go awry with a broken fan belt dropping him out of contention in the Fuji 7 Hour race today.
The longest event on the Super Taikyu calendar was held in muggy conditions that regularly saw temperatures top 38-degrees celcius, making for tough work at the wheel for the 53 entrants competing across six classes.
Driving the PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28, Lester qualified in fourth position but was later demoted a further four grid spots due to an infringement in qualifying where the 23-year old was found to have crossed the ‘blend line’ when entering the pit lane.
Starting from the outside of the fourth row in eighth position, former Super GT Champion Tatsuya Kataoka brought the team into contention during the first stint of the race, taking the lead at the 70-minute mark and handing over to Fariqe Hairuman.
Hairuman consolidated a handy buffer to the chasing GTNET ADVAN Nissan GT-R, and the Team PST’s sister SLS AMG GT3, before Lester took the wheel for the third stint of the race, slowing building the gap further over Nobuteru Taniguchi in SLS AMG GT3 #1.
“I wasn’t sure just how good my pace was for most of my stint due to a radio issue,” Lester said.
“Taniguchi is known to be lightning quick when having to chase down lost time, however I was able to hold and then build the gap with the 28 car performing well as the fuel load decreased.”
This was until the team were forced to serve a 20-second stop/go penalty for a pit lane error during the second driver change, relegating Lester to third before quickly chasing down and passing the GTNET GT-R soon after.
Within sight of team mate Taniguchi in Car #1, Lester pushed on until the ultimate demise came at the four hour mark, when a broken fan belt lost the Takapuna-based driver many laps in the pits as the team raced to rebuild the car.
A heavy thunderstorm engulfed the Fuji International Speedway soon after Lester’s mechanical issues, drenching the track in heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
Erring on the side of caution at over 25 laps down on the leaders, the team elected to complete only the 160-lap minimum to be classified as a finisher, in 40th position.
“This sport can be cruel sometimes and in the two rounds since Korea we have had some big hurdles to jump, and sometimes stumble over. There’s still three rounds remaining, however, and as I can personally vouch for, anything can happen in endurance racing!”
With Super Taikyu using the ‘drop your worst round’ points scoring format, the damage to Lester’s title hopes eases, however the pressure to win the remaining three rounds of the 2013 championship is crucial to his chances.
The next round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series is the 3 Hours of Okayama on August 31 to September 1.
Lester is supported throughout the 2013 season by key partners including Vortex Racewear, Lero Global, R Redpath Limited, Opti-Flex, Fastway Couriers, Robbie Bird Wines, CRC MotorNews.co.nz, Mako Networks, iSign it, Sony New Zealand, Sony Xplod, ThrillPledge and Webdesign.
More details about Jono and his season can be found at www.jonolester.com, or by following ‘Jono Lester’ on Facebook or @jonolester on Twitter. Join the conversation using the hashtag #flyingkiwi on social media.
Follow the action from your smartphone by downloading the free Jono Lester app, simply by visiting http://jonolester.appguppy.com from your iPhone or Android device.
Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team