Round 3

Nobuharu Matsushita wins for the first time from 9th on the grid

jp Suzuka Circuit

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.

Nobuharu Matsushita wins for the first time from 9th on the grid

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.

Nobuharu Matsushita
Nobuharu Matsushita 50
B-Max Racing Team
I could almost cry for the previous race because my performance was so messy throughout. But, my car has got better and better during this weekend, and I could win the race thanks to the team efforts. I was thinking to myself, “Gee! I really wish it would rain in the race.” Coz, I’d start the race from 9th grid. I think the start decides life or death in the wet race, and thank goodness, I could make some positions in the opening lap. My race pace thereafter was better than I expected beforehand, however, as I caught the top three runners in my sight, I felt the tires beginning to wear, and soon it became very hard to cut off the gap in between. That’s when I was told by the team through the radio that, “Front runners also have tire problems.” This advice made me think I should never give up and hold out against the ever degrading tire conditions. I think Nojiri-san is very very strong. I’d never be puffed up with this win, for it was just given to me.

Tomoki Nojiri
Tomoki Nojiri 1
“Disappointed!” That’s all I can say for now. But, if I consider the championship as a long-run, it’s by no means a pessimistic outcome for the time being. In the race, I had tire graining at an earlier stage, and it made me struggle with the heat-up problem. I could control the gap for a while, but Makino was gradually gaining ground on me, and finally, I had to accept the situation where I couldn’t keep the pace anymore. The 2nd place is not the result I wanted today, but in other words, it’s a fruit of our own efforts in which every possible means to win the race was sought and tired. So, I wanna say, “Congratulations!” to the race winner, Matsushita, from the bottom of my heart.

Tadasuke Makino
Tadasuke Makino 5
I’m not happy about today’s result, even though it’s called 3rd place. My start was not bad, and I could jump up to the 3rd in the opening lap. I knew it’s gonna be hard on tires today, so I went without pushing too much and tried to maintain steady pace. After I overtook Yamashita, I started catching up the car in front, and at the same time, Matsushita was drawing back near behind me, which made the progress harsh even more. It had not crossed my mind, “getting defensive,” never ever, and thanks for that, I could finish 3rd. I was disappointed, for sure, but had no regret. Now, looking back the race in a little bit cool-headed perspective, I might as well say that the timing of my pace-up towards the end of the race was bit too early when compared with the two guys in front of me. I’ll try my best to prepare to win in the next round at Autopolis.

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