Yusuke Mitsui, a trainee of SRS-F (currently HRS) last year, made debut to the FIA-F4 series under HFDP tuition from this season, and won outright in the opening round as well as three-consecutive 2nd places immediately after the first win.
Mitsui, recognized as a rising hot shot now, could have been nowhere to see on the starting grid of FIA-F4 in this season as he had once been omitted from the HFDP nomination. Actually, he revived from the verge of his premature racing career.
“My father likes motorsport very much and I’ve been accompanied with him to various motorsport events since I was a small kid. I was interested in it of my own accord later, and begun racing kart on the advice of my father, saying, ‘Do you wanna do yourself don’t you?’ Then, I recognized there’s an opportunity at SRS-F, and applied to a hands-on training program. Nothing more than a casual idea, but I found it’s so enjoyable. That’s why I decided to enter the full-scale program with the encouragement from my father”.
Mitsui making way to SRS-F determined that he would definitely aim at winning the scholarship. He had even withdrawn from the automobile technical college that he entered after high school. He then knocked at the gate of a racing garage, and got part time job there. It was to acquire mechanical knowledges as much as possible while studying formula car driving.
“Admission of the SRS school term of our class was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If that’s not the case, I’d have started the training course while running racing kart at the same time. As a matter of fact, there’s a full-year blank, so I looked for a way that I could learn formula racing properly. Once entered a racing school, next target is to get scholarship, and in order to further step up, I think I have to make a clear future plan of my own, and put my heart and soul into it. Otherwise, I’d never survive the fierce competition in this business, I reckon”.
Unfortunately, Mitsui’s school record was not as good as he expected.
“I usually finished 3rd or 4th, something like that, and told to myself, ‘You can’t reach the top unless you change your approach on your own exertion’. That’s the reason I’ve been practicing formula car driving even out of the school. In doing so, I felt not only my skills getting better but also my confidence grown bigger. ‘If you drive your own way, you’d have chance to come in the scholarship quota,’ that’s what I thought in my mind”.
Mitsui actually remained as one of six candidates for the scholarship and took part in the final selection. But it was announced officially in November that the scholarship would be granted to Sota Arao and Yuto Nomura, the 1st and the 2nd of the graduating class, which means Mitsui failed in the competition.
“I was disappointed, of course. But I knew they’re quicker than me. Both of them. I could accept it. I had to, anyway. And then, I reset my mind trying to find out what I should do next”.
Mitsui even thought about challenging the 2022 FIA-F4 series on his own resources.
“If I could produce decent results then, someone counting on SRS graduates might actually pick me up for some merit or other. That’s what I was advised too, and thankfully, my personal sponsor agreed to come along with the plan. My parents said, ‘You’ve done this much. It’s fine but not enough. You should do till you reach your limit’. Awesome, right?”
Things evolved other way around, however. Both Sota Arao and Yuto Nomura, nominated by the RedBull junior team, switched their direction towards French F4, and there arose vacancy in HFDP to fill the seat of FIA-F4 cars.
In January, 2022, Mitsui preparing his own entry to the FIA-F4 series received a phone call. ‘Don’t you wish to run in FIA-F4 as a member of HFDP, do you?’ said the voice from the other end of the line. Mitsui didn’t need time to consider, not even a fraction of a second. He snapped up the offer.
“Omitted from the SRS scholarship, I thought I was denied as a driver, at least in my capacity. But the news telling me I’d be given the opportunity brought my confidence back. ‘Somebody have seen my effort that’s not always producing result and found some merit in me or its potentiality, maybe,’ I thought. It encouraged me quite a lot and I promised to myself, ‘I’m gonna do by best, get result from the very beginning of my debut season.’ I also set my personal goal. ‘I do what I can do. Means I shoot my bolt. I’ll be series champion!’”
As mentioned in the opening lines, Mitsui, against all odds, achieved debut win in the very first round of the 2022 FIA-F4 series. The chaotic start of the race brought upon opinions like ‘Mitsui’s win was a fluke’ in some quarters, however, subsequent superb runs dispelled such slanders away. He finished 2nd in R-2 behind his teammate, Shun Koide, and added two more 2nd places straight in the following event at Fuji (R-3, R-4), climbing up onto the top of the point standings.
Regarded as a “lucky newcomer” at first, Mitsui now established his own self to be one of the most promising young guns at present. But when the 3rd event weekend was unfolded, he was outdone by Koide in both R-5 and R-6, finishing 3rd and 2nd, and also surrendered point leader’s status to the teammate. Nevertheless, Mitsui has achieved podium finishes in all 6 rounds so far, and stands on runner-up position with ample margin to the 3rd ranker.
Said Mitsui after the event at Fuji：
“Koide has a lot more experience, and I’m clearly off the pace if compared with him. Even though I’m 2nd on point ranking, the difference in ability between Koide and myself is so big that I can’t figure out what’s lacking or deficient in my driving. I really don’t know. But I wanna have my inexperience make no excuse. You can be quick if you find your own way to be quick, even without experience. It’s true, I’m now losin’ out. I can only plod on my way, step by step. Race season doesn’t wait if I take too long, but there’s no point to be hasty. I’ll learn necessary stuff at every race I run, catching up, and overtake finally. That’s the way I like it.”
Mitsui grabbed firmly the opportunity given to him at a cliff edge, and is now trying hard to stretch the limit of his ability further away. The climax of his FIA-F4 debut season is yet to come.