【2021 End Of Season Review】Tomoki Nojiri Wins His First Championship, Honda Wins Six of Seven Rounds
The 2021 Japanese Super Formula Championship was contested over seven rounds at five venues. Six teams / eight cars represented Honda in the series. Tomoki Nojiri (TEAM MUGEN #16), who won Round 1 from pole position, was the overall champion.
Following Naoki Yamamoto (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING #1) winning the 2020 season, Honda had dominated the top Japan-domestic formula series for two consecutive seasons.
Dominating the Opening Round Podium, Nojiri Starts with Two Wins
Not only Nojiri, but Honda kicked of the 2021 season in style. In Round 1 held over the April 3 - 4 weekend at Fuji Speedway, Honda dominated the first two grid rows with Nojiri on pole, followed by Toshiki Oyu (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING #64), Ikyo Sasahara (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING #6), and Nirei Fukuzumi (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING #5).
Nojiri was slow off the mark, but managed to retake the lead mid-race, to win his fourth grand prix. With Oyu second and Fukuzumi third, Honda dominated the opening round podium.
Following his opening round victory, Nojiri won Round 2 at Suzuka from P2. In Round 3 at Autopolis, he turned a seventh grid start into a fifth place finish in a race that was cut short due to rain, continuing to increase his points tally and defend his championship lead. Honda’s best result in this race was Shinji Matsushita (B-Max Racing Team #51) in third place.
Fukuzumi Wins His First Race, Nojiri Keeps Championship Lead
In Round 4 held at Sportsland SUGO over the June 19 - 20 weekend, Fukuzumi starting from P5 took the lead thanks to his mid-race pit strategy paying off. Oyu finished second, giving Honda the top two spots on the podium. Fukuzumi had won his first race in his fourth SPER FORMULA season which began with wild card appearances in 2018. Nojiri was sixth, adding more to his championship points.
Nojiri, who failed to finish on the podium in rounds 3 and 4, was clocking the fastest laps in Round 5 at Twin Ring Motegi held over the August 28 - 29 weekend. Setting a track record in Qualifying, Nojiri went on to win his third grand prix of the season, his sixth overall. This victory virtually guaranteed him the 2021 championship with two rounds remaining.
After Eight Seasons, Mojiri Wins the Championship
Round 6 was held over the October 16 - 17 weekend at Twin Ring Motegi. For Nojiri, the track was special, as it was where he won the All Japan Karting Championship in 2006. In In Round 6 Qualifying, Nojiri’s teammate Hiroki Otsu (Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh #15) was the sole driver on dry tires on the wet track, paying off to give him pole position. Nojiri qualified third, and after battling ever-changing conditions throughout the race, finished fifth. This result not only maintained his championship lead, but was enough to give him the championship title with one round remaining. Nojiri had finally won the SUPER FORMULA title after eight long seasons. Pole-sitter Otsu managed to fend of challenge after challenge to win his first grand prix.
The season finale, the JAF Suzuka Grand Prix, was held over the October 30 - 31 weekend. For newly-crowned Nojiri, Suzuka Circuit was his home track since his Suzuka Circuit Racing School - Formula (SRS-F) days. Honda qualified well in the final round with Matsushita (#51) taking his first pole position, followed by Oyu, Fukuzumi, Makino and Nojiri rounding off the top 5.
In the race, Nojiri was penalized for a jump start, leaving Fukuzumi and Nojiri to fight for the win. In the closing stages, race leader Fukuzumi successfully fended off Ryo Hirakawa (Toyota) to take his second win of the season. Nojiri was third, showing consistency throughout a successful season.
Fukuzumi finished second overall, behind series champion Nojiri. Oyu was ranked fifth overall, just ahead of Otsu, sixth. Otsu was the highest scoring rookie, and was awarded Rookie of the Year. Honda had finished the 2021 season with six poles and wins out of seven rounds.
Rd.01 FUJI Nojiri Dominates from Pole, Honda Dominates Podium with Oyu Second, Fukuzumi Third
Rd.02 SUZUKA Nojiri Wins Two-In-A-Row, Sasahara Claims His First Podium
Rd.03 AUTOPOLIS Matsushita Third in a Rain-Shortened 11-Lap Round 3
Rd.05 MOTEGI Nojiri’s Pole-to-win Brings Championship Within Reach
Rd.06 MOTEGI Otsu Scores First Win at Motegi, Nojiri Wins Championship with 5th Place Finish
Rd.07 SUZUKA Fukuzumi’s Second Victory at Second Suzuka Round
|1||Tomoki NOJIRI||16||TEAM MUGEN||Honda||86|
|2||Nirei FUKUZUMI||5||DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING||Honda||55|
|3||Yuhi SEKIGUCHI||19||carenex TEAM IMPUL||Toyota||55|
|4||Ryo HIRAKAWA||20||carenex TEAM IMPUL||Toyota||46|
|5||Toshiki OYU||64||TCS NAKAJIMA RACING||Honda||41|
|6||Hiroki OTSU||15||Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh||Honda||38.5|
|8||Nobuharu MATSUSHITA||51||B-Max Racing Team||Honda||33.5|
|9||Tadasuke MAKINO||6||DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING||Honda||24|
|10||Ritomo MIYATA||37||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||Toyota||22|
|11||Giuliano ALESI||36||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||Toyota||20|
|12||Ukyo SASAHARA||6||DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING||Honda||18|
|13||Naoki YAMAMOTO||1||TCS NAKAJIMA RACING||Honda||13|
|14||Kenta YAMASHITA||3||KONDO RACING||Toyota||8|
|16||Sacha FENESTRAZ||4||KONDO RACING||Toyota||4|
|17||Kazuki NAKAJIMA||36||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||Toyota||4|
|19||Kazuya OSHIMA||14||NTT Communications ROOKIE||Toyota||2.5|