Honda’s Red Bull juniors adapt quickly in the second round of the French F4 championship
After a strong start to their European racing careers at Nogaro three weeks ago, Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura graduated from the Suzuka Racing School (SRS), now named the Honda Racing School (HRS) in 2022, got their first experience of street circuit racing in the French city of Pau this weekend.
Both reached the podium in their first weekend in FFSA Academy’s centrally-run French Formula 4 championship, and they continued their development into Pau with the support of the Red Bull Junior Team and Honda's young driver development programme Honda Formula Dream Project (HFDP) of which they are both members of.
Free practice and qualifying took place on Friday, and Nomura was straight on the pace as he topped practice on his very first sighting of the track. Later in the day Arao claimed pole position for race one with a last-second lap in qualifying, earning his maiden pole in single-seater racing, while Nomura qualified second for race three.
Saturday began with the first French F4 race, and Arao converted his pole into a strong second place after being beaten off the line at the start. Nomura was targeting a podium, and he made an impressive pass for third place going up the hill of the track in the middle of the race. However, a mistake on the way back down launched his car into the barriers and not only ended his race but also ruled him out of the rest of the weekend due to damage on the front-left of his Mygale M21-F4.
Arao ran in a points-scoring position in the reversed-grid second race of the day until he had an incident that sent him into retirement, but he could finish the day at least knowing he had shown competitive race pace.
The final contest of the event occurred on Sunday, and the experience built up in his first two bouts of street circuit racing aided Arao immediately in race three as he made a strong start to take the lead against his title rival Hugh Barter.
Through the early laps a lot of pressure was applied on Arao from behind, and he positioned his car well when Barter got close thanks to the effect of the slipstream on the circuit’s straights. He soon found a rhythm and resisted his opponent for lap after lap until he encountered a new challenge of backmarkers to lap. That traffic was navigated without trouble, and Arao claimed his first single-seater win to close in on the championship lead ahead of round three at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours next weekend.