Rookie Atsushi Miyake takes third place, giving himself and his team their first podium
The 4th round of the 2022 Super Formula series was held at Autopolis International Racing Course (Oita Pref.) on May 21 and 22, 2022.
Morning free practice session on 21 (Saturday) begun under the wet condition with a drizzling rain that would stop shortly after. Predicting the track surface would soon dry out, the entire runners chosen slick tires and carried on setting up each car.
Qualifying sessions in the afternoon unfolded on dry condition that has got tougher due to the escalating temperature both ambient and track surface. In the result of Q1 and Q2 sessions, Tomoki Nojiri (#1 TEAM MUGEN) who has so far been the point leader achieved his third pole position in this season. Tadasuke Makino (#5 DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) came in 3rd, with Ukyo Sasahara (#15 TEAM MUGEN) in 4th and Atsushi Miyake (#55 TEAM GOH) in 5th following behind, lining up four HONDA/M-TEC users in the top-6 slots.
The race day on 22 (Sunday) saw the morning sun guaranteeing ambient/track surface temperatures get even higher, and exactly at its peak at 2：30 p.m., the race was started. Nojiri dived first into the Turn-1 followed by Makino who had snatched 2nd place from Ritomo Miyata (Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S) by a superb takeoff.
The promising opening, however, was stranded by a mid-field accident right after the start, and the race was led by safety car for three laps. The action was resumed from the 4th lap and Nojiri again broke into the lead. A lap later at Turn-1, Makino surrendered his 2nd place at to Ryo Hirakawa (carenex TEAM IMPUL) who had jumped up from the 8th grid. In the meanwhile, yet another accident happened at Turn-2, and it was huge for this time. Safety car was introduced again and the parade run lasted till the 10th lap.
Once the race was restarted, the field was basically divided into two groups; one for the “early stop” party and the “stay until mid-term” bunch for another. Nojiri came in for new tires at the end of 15th lap, which made Hirakawa take over the leading position and runaway in the clean air. Hirakawa then made his own stop at the end of 20th lap, returned to the course in front of Nojiri, and firmly secured the upper hand of the race.
Further back from the top battle between Hirakawa and Nojiri, Miyake who had earlier dropped some positions from his original 5th chosen to stay longer, thus elevated up to the apparent 2nd position. He kept up steady pace caring for tires while chasing Sacha Fenestraz (KONDO RACING), the apparent leader of the race. Miyake went for new tires at the end of 32nd lap, and returned in front of Nojiri making his virtual position to 3rd behind Hirakawa and Fenestraz, which he retained all through to the checkered flag. After the 42-lap race, Miyake, the rookie of the 2022 Super Formula season, finished 3rd, the highest of the HONDA/M-TEC users, and on top of it, his first ever podium finish in any kind of top formula categories held in Japan.
Nojiri finished 4th and added 11-point (including extra 3 by pole position) in his bag. The total of 67 points is the current championship leader still 7-point ahead of Hirakawa, the runner-up driver. The next round will be held at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi Pref.) on June 18-19, 2022.