Group aims to bring international auto racing to Okinawa

By Bill Charles

Okinawan IMP Racing Team won the 5th overall place in the Super GT 300 race series in their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 race car.

Race fever is making its way to Okinawa, where a local outfit has jumped onto the international motor race circuit –and finished well up in the pack — with an eye to having one day a grand prix style race here.

IMP Racing Team celebrates success. (From left) Hironori Takeuchi, Masashi Miyata and Takeshi Tsuchiya.

Okinawa International Motorsports Project., Inc., is already well into conducting motor sports events on the island, but is expanding focus.  This weekend it’s sponsoring the Okinawa PMP Festival at Chura Sun Beach as a triumphant return to the island for its race team that finished in 5th place in the Super GT 300 race series.  The Saturday and Sunday Festival will give Okinawans a chance to see the race car, meet the drivers and pit crew, and see it run. A triumph return parade takes place both days.  Saturday festival hours are 5 p.m. ~ 9 p.m., and Sunday the festival operates 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m.

The first race for the IMP team was in Okayama where the team finished fourth.

Okinawa IMP’s goal is to create a public road race course in Tomigusuku, a first for Japan.  To demonstrate the interest Okinawa has for such a project, the IMP team began racing on the international circuit. Many motor sports races take place on public roads, including the F-1 Monaco Grand Prix, and the Macau Grand Prix held each year in November.

The festival pre-event Saturday begins at 5 p.m. at the Chura Sun Beach lighting ceremony, followed by the SLS AMG GT3 exhibition. On Sunday, the exhibition begins with team greetings and a talk show at 9 a.m., including photo sessions with the race queens, and the parade.  Okinawa IMP’s race team – team representative Kazuya Tazawa, 1st driver Hironori Takeuchi, 2nd driver Takeshi Tsuchiya and team supervisor Masashi Miyata will all be on hand.

In its inaugural season, the Okinawa team qualified 8th in the Okayama Tournament and finished fourth, qualified 4th in the Fuji Tournament and finished 4th, qualified 6th in the Sepang Malaysia Tournament and finished 12th, qualified 6th and finished 4th in the Sugao Kanagawa Prefecture race, and qualified 7th and finished second in the Suzuka Mie Prefecture race.

More information on Super FT race series is available on the Super GT English language website is at http://supergt.net/pages/pg:index/device:pc/ln:en