Round 4

Liam Lawson Takes His Second Win of the Season


The 4th round of the 2023 Super Formula series was held at Autopolis International Racing Course (Oita Pref.) on May 20 (Sat) and 21 (Sun).

Liam Lawson Takes His Second Win of the Season

#1 Tomoki Nojiri (TEAM MUGEN) decided to withdraw from the race due to ill-health and the team appointed Hiroki Otsu as a substitute.

A total of 11 drivers of 6 teams use Honda/M-TEC engines as follows; #1 Hiroki Otsu, #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).

Official Qualifying Sessions were carried out on the knock-out format on 20 (Sat) where the rain that had continued till dawn rapidly ceased and by the time Q1 was started the sky cleared up so that ambient and road surface temperature raised to 23℃ and 37℃ respectively.

In the Q1, A-group, #15 Liam Lawson (TEAM MUGEN) came in 2nd and #5 Tadasuke Makino (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) 3rd, both made its way to Q2; and in Q1, B-group, #50 Nobuharu Matsushita (B-Max Racing Team), #12 Nirei Fukuzumi (ThreeBond Racing), #65 Ren Sato (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) proceeded to Q2, however, #1 Hiroki Otsu (TEAM MUGEN) pinch-hitting Nojiri went off and touched the urethane barrier which made the session suspended by the red flag for a while.

The result of Q2 saw Lawson marked the top time among Honda/M-TEC users being the 2nd best overall and was followed by Fukuzumi in 5th, Makino 7th, Matsushita 9th, Sato 11th on the starting grid.

The race started at 3:00 p.m on 21 (Sun), under the clear sky. Lawson unable to accelerate quite well from the 2nd grid entered into Turn-1 in 3rd behind #38 Sho Tsuboi’s 1st and #39 Sena Sakaguchi’s 2nd. Lawson creeped on Sakaguchi thereafter but not near enough to raid its position, and then finally chose to wound up mandatory stop for a new set of tires on Lap-13. Lawson immediately put on a spurt with fresh rubbers, got ahead of Sakaguchi when he returned to the track after his own stop a lap later, and now set hold of virtual 2nd place.

Tsuboi, the race leader, came in for new tires after Lap-25, whereas Lawson executed the predetermined out-lap strategy and took over the virtual 1st place passing through the main-straight before Tsuboi coming out from the pit lane.

On Lap-29, #53 Toshiki Oyu (TGM Grand Prix) after touching with another car spun out into the gravel trap. Safety Car (SC) was deployed for the incident which definitely was an opportune cue for remaining late-stoppers to make their pit-in. Lawson thus has now became the race leader both in virtually and nominally, however, Tsuboi running 2nd with better tires shod only on Lap-25 and #37 Ritomo Miyata now up to 3rd also on fresh rubbers changed when SC intervened closed in on #15 car that had already run some twenty laps on same tires. Obviously, Lawson’s prospects were doomed at this point.

The race was restarted from Lap-34, and it was when Lawson produced arguably the drive of the day. In the mean time, Tsuboi and Miyata were busy fighting their own battle for the 2nd place which helped the race leader to make the gap from followers even bigger for the rest of the 41-lap race. Lawson kept on running in complete control and achieved his second win in the season.

Makino starting from 7th grid eventually finished 6th with his pace much increased after the tire change. Sato, Fukuzumi and #64 Naoki Yamamoto (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) finished 7th to 9th in that order, all these within point-scoring placings.

The next race, the 5th round of the series, will be held on June, 17 (Sat) - 18 (Sun) at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi Pref.)

In the opening event of the Super Formula Lights series concurrently held at Autopolis, Iori Kimura entered from HFDP achieved the hat-trick of three straight pole-to-wins in the same weekend.

Liam Lawson
Liam Lawson 15
Autopolis was my first time but my car was fantastic, and I could drive with confidence. I dropped a position at the start, and it’s why we chose early stop. The strategy worked well that I could barely get ahead of the two rivals (Tsuboi and Miyata.) I was not particularly concerned about the tire condition, however, I tried to concentrate on saving tires and maintain my pace at the same time. I was surprised when I won in the opening round at Fuji, but today, I feel I'm gaining the momentum together with my team. And, I should have said this first, it’s about Nojiri-san. All despite that he had to miss the race, he gave us, me and the team, unstinted advise and counsel. I’m thankful for him from all my heart.

Tadasuke Makino
Tadasuke Makino 5
I think the “under-cut” was a good option from the strategic view point. But I got hit by a traffic right after my stop and had to hang around with it. I didn’t expect that and it’s so frustrating. I could feel my race pace would be good as soon as I began driving. Plus, I got hung up in traffic. These two reasons made me chose the under-cut strategy, and it was solely me decision. Compared to the previous races, my race pace has got much better now, and the performance itself is more than the result shows, I think. My mind set is very positive now. I’m looking forward to the next race at Sportsland SUGO where I did a very good race last year.

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