SUPER FORMULA

[2020 Season Review] Honda mounts counterattack from mid-season. Naoki Yamamoto wins becomes champion in both of Japan’s major categories

The 2020 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA series was slated to start in the first week of April, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was postponed to August 30. The Twin Ring Motegi season-opener was not smooth by any means, as foreign drivers could not race due to COVID-related travel restrictions

[2020 Season Review] Honda mounts counterattack from mid-season. Naoki Yamamoto wins becomes champion in both of Japan’s major categories

The 2020 season progressed with roughly one round per month: Twin Ring Motegi in August, Okayama International Circuit in September, Sportsland SUGO in October, and Autopolis in November. Early in the season there were surprising developments, such as newcomer Toshiki Oyu (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING #65) becoming Honda’s best qualifier on the starting grid at the season opener, but as a whole, the first half of the year was tough for Honda teams. The best performer was Naoki Yamamoto #5 (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING), third in Round 3. Honda had not won any of the first three rounds.

Honda’s first victory of the season came in Round 4, Autopolis, where pole-sitter Tomoki Nojiri #16 (TEAM MUGEN) overcame a strong challenge from Yamamoto #5 to win.


Round 4: Tomoki Nojiri gives Honda first win of the season
Round 4: Tomoki Nojiri gives Honda first win of the season

The points at this stage were Nojiri #16 third, 15 points adrift from the series leader, Yamamoto #5 fourth, and Makino #64 ninth. But, as the season progressed, the tide had changed.

The second half of the season kicked off at the Honda-suited Suzuka Circuit as a double-header JAF Suzuka Grand Prix (Rounds 5 and 6). In Round 5, Hondas dominated Qualifying with Yamamoto #5, Nojiri #16 and Nirei Fukuzumi (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING #6) first through third. Yamamoto #5 scored his first win of the season. In Round 6, Ohyu #65, Ukyo Sasahara (TEAM MUGEN #15), Yamamoto #5, and Fukuzumi #6 qualified second through fifth. Yamamoto #5 looked good in the race but retired due to mechanical issues, but Ohyu #65 and Fukuzumi #6 crossed the finish line first and second. For Ohyu #65, it was his first SUPER FORMULA win from only six races. For Honda, it was its third consecutive race win, following Nojiri #16 in Round 4 and Yamamoto #5 in Round 5.


Round 6: Rookie Toshiki Ohyu wins
Round 6: Rookie Toshiki Ohyu wins

The late season comeback dramatically changed the championship landscape. With Round 7 remaining, Yamamoto #5 had caught up to Ryo Hirakawa (Toyota #20), and Nojiri #16 was in contention for the championship.

The season finale was held at the Fuji Speedway in December, unheard of in any other season. Hondas were fast in Qualifying. Despite low track and ambient temperatures, six Hondas managed to proceed to Q3 which would decide the final starting grid. Nojiri #16 set a new track record to take pole, Yamamoto #5 qualified third, and Shinji Matsushita (Buzz Racing with B-Max #50) Sasahara #15, Fukuzumi #6, and Ohyu #65 fourth through seventh. Six Hondas qualified in the top seven grid positions.

Sho Tsuboi (Toyota #39) was fast off the mark, taking the lead. Hondas chased. Championship contender Yamamoto #5 was running fourth, and was in a deadheat with Hirakawa #20. Nojiri #16, another contender, retired due to mechanical issues. In the end, Hirai #39 won, Ohyu #65 was second, and Matsushita #50 third. Yamamoto #5 finished fifth, ahead of Hirakawa #20, giving him the 2020 championship title, his third in SUPER FORMULA. He also won the SUPER GT GT500 class for the second time in 2020, making him champion in both of Japan’s major championship series.

For 2021, champion Naoki Yamamoto replaces Tadasuke Makino to race for TCS NAKAJIMA RACING joining Toshiki Ohyu. DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING will be represented by Nirei Fukuzumi and Makino. Threebond Drago CORSE will continue with Tatiana Calderón. Tomoki Nojiri will race with TEAM MUGEN, and Hiroki Otsu with Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh.


Naoki Yamamoto
Naoki Yamamoto 5
DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING
“Hirakawa, racing for the championship, was right behind me, so it was a tense 40 laps. Hirakawa fought very fair. I raced by best thanks to him being my rival in not only SUPER FORMULA but SUPER GT for the year. He brought out the best in my abilities. I am very grateful.”



Points

Pos.

No.

Drivers

Engine

Total

Best 5 races’ result

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

1

5

Naoki Yamamoto

Honda

62

62

5

11

16

23

7

2

20

Ryo Hirakawa

Toyota

60

60

23

11

17

4

5

3

39

Syo Tsuboi

Toyota

50

50

20

8

22

4

1

Nick Cassidy

Toyota

57

50

5

11

20

4

6

3

8

5

16

Tomoki Nojiri

Honda

51

47

4

1

8

23

6

6

3

6

65

Toshiki Oyu

Honda

41

41

1

3

22

15

 

8

6

Nirei Fukuzumi

Honda

30

29

6

3

1

4

1

15

12

64

Tadasuke Makino

Honda

20

20

2

4

11

3

15

50

Nobuharu Matsushita

Honda

16

16

-

-

-

5

11

18

15

Ukyo Sasahara

Honda

5

5

1

4

20

50

Sergio Sette Camara

Honda

3

3

-

-

3

-

-

-

-

12

Koudai Tsukakoshi

Honda

-

-

-

-

-

50

Teppei Natori

Honda

-

-

-

-

-

-

50

Mitsunori Takaboshi

Honda

-

-

-

-

-

-

51

Charles Milesi

Honda

-

-

-

-

-

64

Hiroki Otsu

Honda

-

-

-

-

-


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