Round 3

Liam Lawson finishes the race in fourth place

jp Suzuka Circuit

The 3rd round of the 2023 Super Formula series was held at Suzuka Circuit (Mie Pref.) on April 22 (Sat) - 23 (Sun).

Liam Lawson finishes the race in fourth place

In this season, a total of 11 drivers of 6 teams use Honda/M-TEC engines as follows; #1 Tomoki Nojiri, #15 Liam Lawson (TEAM MUGEN), #5 Tadasuke Makino, #6 Kakunoshin Ohta (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING), #12 Nirei Fukuzumi (ThreeBond Racing), #50 Nobuharu Matsushita, #51 Raoul Hyman (B-Max Racing Team), #53 Toshiki Oyu, #55 Cem Bolukbasi (TGM Grand Prix), #64 Naoki Yamamoto, #65 Ren Sato, (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING).

Qualifying sessions were carried out on knock-out format in the afternoon April 22 (Sat). Toshiki Oyu (#53 TGM Grand Prix) who had done the top time in the free practice session in the morning took part in Q1 and marked the best time again in group A (1’36"534) by a superb attack executed on the timing that was slightly deviated from others. The momentum was carried over to the Q2 session, Oyu achieved yet another top time and captured the pole position.

Tomoki Nojiri (#1 TEAM MUGEN) who had done four consecutive pole position since the 2022 Rd.9 failed to make the fifth, and settled 3rd on the starting grid. Tadasuke Makino (#5 DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) followed in 5th, Ren Sato (#65 TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) in 7th and Liam Lawson (#15 TEAM MUGEN) in 8th respectively.

The race was started on 23 (Sun) in the afternoon under a clear blue sky. Oyu left from the pole position took the lead through overwhelming acceleration and immediately began to pull away. In the following pack, Lawson, from the 8th grid, already overtook several cars in front, and even caught Nojiri jumping up to 3rd as early as on Lap-3.

A bunch of cars cleared the mandatory tire change right after the minimum 10 laps, however, Oyu opting for the late stop strategy finally made his stop after Lap-19. Sho Tsuboi (#38 P.MU/CERUMO・INGING) took over the virtual top position which Oyu would soon recapture with his pace boosted by fresh tires, at least on his hypothetical plan. As a matter of fact, Nojiri closing in on Oyu still running on cold tires and touched him in the rear, which forced both cars tangled out from the track at S-curve and retired on the spot.

This resulted in Lawson climbing up to 2nd behind Tsuboi, and Safety Car was introduce to take care the accident. In the meantime, two late-stoppers, Ritomo Miyata (#37 VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S) and Ryo Hirakawa (#20 ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL) finally came in for new tires, and returned the course right behind Lawson.

The race was restarted with seven laps to go. Lawson tried his best to protect the runner-up position next to Tsuboi only to yield his place both to Miyata and Hirakawa whose pace was way faster helped by the fresh rubber, could not help but ended up in 4th.

Cem Bolukbasi (#55 TGM Grand Prix) finished 9th and Nirei Fukuzumi (#12 ThreeBond Racing) 10th, taking each share of the championship point.

The next race, Rd.4 will be held at Autopolis International Racing Course (Oita Pref.) on May 20 (Sat) and 21 (Sun), 2023.

Liam Lawson
Liam Lawson 15
We never know Safety Car would come in the later half of the race. So, I think our strategy, that is changing tires right after Lap-10, was nothing wrong. My race pace was good. But, unfortunately, Safety Car came in when my tires were almost finished, and it helped my opponents on fresh tires catch me quite easily. It’s a good weekend, anyway. I’m very thankful to Honda fans for their earnest supports. I’ve received many messages and gifts this week again. I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.

Toshiki Oyu
Toshiki Oyu 53
TGM Grand Prix
We’d done a lot of preparatory work before we came to Suzuka, and I could start the weekend feeling pretty good. I didn’t know what would happen in the qualifying coz some rivals are very strong, but I’m so happy with my drive, for sure. I’d never expected to get the pole position so early, I mean, it’s only the second race with the new team, right? I think I was doing my race perfectly till I had that accident. It’s one of those races we all have to accept. I’m frustrated of course but I have to reset my mind telling, “Just a bad luck.” to myself, and I keep on going with my head up.

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