Round 7

Fukuzumi’s Second Victory at Second Suzuka Round

jp Suzuka Circuit

The season-closing Round 7 of the 2021 SUPER FORMULA season was held over the October 30 - 31 weekend at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie.

Fukuzumi’s Second Victory at Second Suzuka Round

Skies were clear but temperatures were low on Saturday. In the morning, Tomoki Nojiri (TEAM MUGEN #16), who had already wrapped up the championship in Round 6, set the fastest lap, which became the time to beat throughout the practice session. Tadasuke Makino (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING #6) was fourth fastest, and Nirei Fukuzumi (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING #5) was sixth.

Good weather and Honda’s performance continued into the afternoon, with Hiroki Otsu (Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh #15) and Makino (#6) proceeding from Q1A to Q2, although Naoki Yamamoto (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING #1) was unable to make it. In the other qualifying group, Q1B, Toshiki Oyu (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING #64), Fukuzumi (#5), Nobuharu Matsushita (B-MAX Racing Team #51) and Nojiri (#16) were fast enough to get into Q2, although Tatiana Calderón (Threebond Drago CORSE #12) was not.

In the Q2A and Q2B sessions, all Honda drivers dominated the top spots in both sessions, and proceeded to Q3, where Matsushita (#51) took pole, and Oyu (#64), Fukuzumi (#5), Makino (#6) and Nojiri (#16) filled the second through fifth grid spots. Otsu (#15), winner of the previous round, was seventh on the grid.

Cloudy skies and intermittent rain meant the free practice session on Sunday morning was held in wet conditions, but the skies cleared in the afternoon allowing the race to start on a dry track. Matsushita (#51) and Oyu (#64) defended their top two spots as the race began. Nojiri (#16) was also fast off the mark, closing in on Oyu (#64), who after slight contact between the drivers at the S-bends on Lap 2, was sent off-track.

Matsushita (#51), who had begun to build a comfortable lead, was penalized for a race start violation, and was well down the positions after serving the drive-through penalty on Lap 5. Nojiri (#16) took the lead, with Fukuzumi (#5), the #20 car, Otsu (#15) and Makino (#6) behind.

Ten laps into the race, the mandatory pit stops for tires began. Fukuzumi (#5), running second, came in on Lap 11, while race-leader Nojiri (#16) changed tires a lap later. The #20 car took the lead on track, but Fukuzumi (#5) and Nojiri (#16) fought for the lead. Fukuzumi (#5) had the advantage of warmer tires, and not only caught up to Nojiri (#16), but overtook on Lap 13 at the reverse bank corner.

The #20 car pitted on Lap 14 for tires, and was back on track in front of Fukuzumi (#5), but the Honda driver had no problems with reclaiming the lead on warmer tires, closing the gap and overtaking at the Turn 2. Discounting the race-leading #19 car, yet to pit for tires, Fukuzumi (#5) led the #20 car by over a second. Nojiri (#16) was just over three-seconds behind, with Otsu (#15) chasing him.

Race leaders held their positions into the final stages, until the #20 car used his overtake system to close in on race leader Fukuzumi (#5) on the penultimate lap. The Honda driver waited until the Spoon curve to use his, pulling decisively ahead for his second victory of the season. Nojiri (#16) finished third for his fourth podium of the season. Otsu (#15), finishing behind the #19 car that pitted for tires with only three laps to go, was fifth, earning him the Rookie of the Year award.

Nirei Fukuzumi
Nirei Fukuzumi 5
When I started off this weekend, I had no idea I could win. I ended the first Suzuka round in a bad way [burst tire], and had some depressing races, so I’m really happy to win the final round. My starts were slow in practice and in the race, and I lost some places, but the car was running well, so I knew I could retake my positions, which I managed to do in mo time. When the #20 car was closing in at the end of the race, I didn’t use my overtake system until the very end because Suzuka is a hard track to overtake on, and as long as I stayed ahead until Sector 3, I could win. This was a big victory for me.

Tomoki Nojiri
Tomoki Nojiri 16
I’d like to apologize to Oyu, everyone at TCS NAKAJIMA RACING and their fans for the incident on Lap 2. I couldn’t give way under the circumstances, but it was my fault I couldn’t completely control the car. In future, I’ll do my best to be able to drive better on the edge even in similar circumstances. Starting fifth on the grid, I wasn’t sure how the race would end, so I’m happy to be on the podium. We had a few issues such as pit strategy, so it may have been a race we could win. I’d like to thank everyone for their support this season, which helped me win the championship.

Hiroki Otsu
Hiroki Otsu 15
Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh
I did well in Qualifying to be third on the grid, but I didn’t have the race pace, and finished fifth. It’s not a satisfying end to the season, but I won Rookie of the Year, so overall it was a good season. I am grateful for the help from the team, the encouragement from my advisors, and knowledge from my teammate (Nojiri), making it a year of growth for me. My driving career is still ahead of me, and I’ll strive to become a better driver. Thank you for your support.

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