Nobuharu Matsushita wins for the first time from 9th on the grid
The 3rd round of the 2022 Super Formula series was held at Suzuka Circuit (Mie Pref.) on April 23 and 24, 2022. Warm hazy sun heralds the arrival of spring on Saturday at Suzuka Circuit where the qualifying sessions duly took place.
In the afternoon, Tomoki Nojiri #1 (TEAM MUGEN) cleanly outperformed his rivals in the both Q1 and Q2 sessions and seized the pole position with ease. Tadasuke Makino #5 (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) took 6th grid while his teammate, Hiroki Otsu driving #6 car sat on 8th, followed by Nobuharu Matsushita #50 (B-Max Racing Team) and Naoki Yamamoto #64 (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) on 9th and 10th grid respectively. The driver who set the 5th fastest time in the qualifying session was handed a three-place grid penalty, which granted Makino and Otsu to move up a grid each, to 5th and 7th grid.
Actions on Sunday at Suzuka begun in the drizzling rain. After the free practice session in the morning, the race started with all runners fitting on full-wet tires. Nojiri launching out from the pole position led the pack into the first corner, and behind him, Makino jumped up to 3rd place and Matsushita followed suit from 9th to 5th.
Makino then closed in on Kenta Yamashita (KONDO RACING), and soon took over his 2nd place at the so-called “GYAKU (Reverse)” Bank on the 7th lap. Matsushita, on the same lap, passed Sho Tsuboi (P.MU/CERUMO･INGING) and then Yamashita on the 9th lap, elevating his position up to 3rd place. This made the 1-2-3 formation of Honda/M-TEC users with Nojiri at the top followed by Makino 2nd and Matsushita 3rd.
In the mean time, Nojiri was building up a commanding lead lap by lap, however, the tire graining (strips of rubber torn from a tire immediately stick back onto the hot surface and make it severely wrinkled) started gnaw his driving as early as the 10th lap. Many other drivers suffered the same symptom as Nojiri in this race, and all of them were forced slowing down invariably, which made the traffic congested in a short period of time.
After the 20th lap, Matsushita running 3rd came within 1-second behind Makino who run 2nd, and the 2-car echelon begun to chase Nojiri up in front. On the 27th lap, Matsushita overtook Makino at HITACHI Astemo chicane and immediately speeded up reducing the 3-second gap between Nojiri at the top.
On the 29th lap, Matsushita treaded close on Nojiri’s heels, and the very next lap at Turn-1, less than 2-laps to go, he made a resolute move from outside, finally beaten Nojiri fair and square. Matsushita, now leading the race, drove a solid drive to the finish taking his first win in the Super Formula series, that is also the maiden victory for B-Max Racing Team in the same category. Nojiri came in 2nd and so did Makino in 3rd making an outstanding achievement by Honda/M-TEC users monopolizing the Suzuka podium.
As the result, Nojiri accumulated his point up to 56 retaining the top position of the point ranking, which surpasses the runner-up driver, Ryo Hirakawa (carenex TEAM IMPUL) by 16-point. Matsushita scoring 20 full mark by this win climbed up to 3rd place. The next round will be held at Autopolis International Racing Course (Oita Perf.) on May 21-22, 2022.