Motegi Super Formula: Hirakawa takes dominant win

Ryo Hirakawa took a dominant victory in the opening Super Formula race of the season at Motegi, as Kenta Yamashita beat Sacha Fenestraz to second place.

Impul driver Hirakawa made a strong getaway from pole as Yamashita vaulted into second from third on the grid ahead of rookie teammate Fenestraz.

And that was how the top three order remained throughout the 35-lap race, which featured no mandatory pitstop – although some drivers further down the order did change tyres – and very few on-track position changes after the opening lap.

Hirakawa never opened up a lead of more than 1.5s throughout the race over Yamashita, who in turn was rarely able to get closer than a second to the leader until the final laps.

Despite Yamashita’s late charge, Hirakawa hung on by 0.610s for his second win in Super Formula, which came 12 months on from his maiden triumph at Motegi last year.

Fenestraz completed the podium behind Kondo Racing teammate Yamashita, resisting race-long pressure from TOM’S driver Kazuki Nakajima.

Best of the Honda-powered drivers at the finish was Nirei Fukuzumi in fifth, although the Dandelion Racing man gained the place after contact with Yuhi Sekiguchi.

Hirakawa’s Impul teammate Sekiguchi settled into fifth place in the early laps but couldn’t keep up the pace of the top four, and a train of cars led by Kamui Kobayashi formed behind him.

Fukuzumi finally cleared Kobayashi’s KCMG car for sixth place on lap 19 and two laps later he was on the tail of Sekiguchi, but as he tried to dive up the inside heading into the long Turn 6 right-hander the two cars touched, Sekiguchi spearing off into the gravel.

Escaped damage in the incident, Fukuzumi was able to come home 11s adrift of Hirakawa.

Reigning champion Nick Cassidy (TOM’S) made up five places to finish sixth, helped by Kobayashi sustaining a puncture and Naoki Yamamoto (Dandelion) making what turned out to be an ill-advised pitstop to change tyres at the end of lap 20.

Completing the points-scorers were Tomoki Nojiri (Mugen), Hiroaki Ishiura (Inging), Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing) and Kazuya Oshima (Inging).

Juri Vips’ replacement Ukyo Sasahara (Mugen) was the best of the drivers to change tyres in 11th place, and although he was two seconds faster on fresher tyres he couldn’t find a way past Oshima in the closing laps.

Tatiana Calderon (Drago Corse) likewise changed tyres and finished 12th, fiercely defending her position from the similarly one-stopping Yamamoto on the final lap.

Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing) ended up four laps down in 15th, behind Kobayashi, after slowing with mechanical trouble on the first lap exiting the hairpin and pitting.

Race results:

Cla#DriverTeamLapsGap
120 Ryo HirakawaITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL35 
23 Kenta YamashitaKondo Racing35 0.610
34 Sacha FenestrazKondo Racing35 3.331
436 Kazuki NakajimaVantelin Team TOM’S35 7.556
56 Nirei FukuzumiDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing35 11.179
61 Nick CassidyVantelin Team TOM’S35 19.929
716 Tomoki NojiriTeam Mugen35 26.930
838 Hiroaki IshiuraJMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING35 27.854
964 Tadasuke MakinoTCS Nakajima Racing35 38.030
1014 Kazuya OshimaROOKIE Racing35 39.497
1115 Ukyo SasaharaTeam Mugen35 40.664
1212 Tatiana CalderonThreeBond Drago CORSE35 1’02.537
135 Naoki YamamotoDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing35 1’02.679
147 Kamui Kobayashicarrozzeria Team KCMG35 1’03.270
1565 Toshiki OyuTCS Nakajima Racing31 4 Laps
1618 Yuji Kunimotocarrozzeria Team KCMG22 13 Laps
1719 Yuhi SekiguchiITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL20 15 Laps
1839 Sho TsuboiJMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING0 
View full results


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