The 7th round of the 2023 Super Formula series was held at Mobility Resort Motegi (Tochigi Pref.) on August 19 (Sat) and 20 (Sun), 2023.
#53 Toshiki Oyu (TGM Grand Prix) who had skipped the previous round due to injury now came back to the scene even on the way to convalescence. A total of 11 drivers of 6 teams using Honda/M-TEC engine participated in the race 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 Oyu, #55 Cem Bolukbasi (TGM Grand Prix), #64 Naoki Yamamoto, #65 Ren Sato (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING).
Qualifying sessions started at 2：50 p.m., on 19 (Sat) under the blazing sun. In Q1 A-group, Makino (#5 DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING ), Lawson (#15 TEAM MUGEN) and Yamamoto (#64 TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) made their way to Q2, and so did Oyu (#53 TGM Grand Prix), Nojiri (#1 TEAM MUGEN) and Ohta (#6 DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) in Q1 B-group.
In the Q2 session deciding top-12 grid order saw Nojiri seize the pole position, his third in this season, and first since the 2nd round this year. Ohta who looks like overcoming the first year’s hurdle in these few races captured 2nd grid, his personal best so far. Lawson and Oyu sat in 3rd and 4th grid, thus the front two rows were occupied by the Honda/M-TEC engine users as same as the previous round, but it would be more advantageous for this time because Motegi is deemed as one of anti-overtaking tracks in the series.
The Sunday morning on 20, the race day, dawned with the gleaming sun yet again, however, clouds began spreading over the sky in the afternoon, and even some rainfalls were predicted. As MFJ All Japan Road Race, one of the preliminary events held on the same day, was red-flagged and delayed, the race was started at 3：15 p.m., 15-minutes behind the scheduled timetable. Ambient and track surface temperatures reached at 33℃ and 46℃ respectively, which were dropping down slightly thereafter for the sun being covered by thickening clouds.
Right at the start, while Ohta coming to a standstill on the 2nd grid, Nojiri left smoothly from pole position into Turn-1 with Lawson chasing right behind. When the two cars running side-by-side out from Turn-2, Lawson had his right wheels drop out from the curbstone and then spinned, veering back into the middle of the traffic. Yuhi Sekiguchi (#19 ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL), Makino and Matsushita (#50 B-Max Racing Team) were all literally at their wits’ end, and crashed each one and other.
The race was immediately stopped by red flag and then restarted behind the safety car at 3：50 p.m., where Nojiri made clear take off, being followed now by Oyu who would choose to come in for new tires right after Lap-10. Nojiri, on the other hand, opting for the late stop kept on going and gradually pull away from pursuers till he stopped on Lap-25.
When Nojiri returned to the track, Ritomo Miyata (#37 VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S) was running at the forefront, then Ryo Hirakawa (#20 ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL) in 2nd, Nojiri and Oyu in 3rd and 4th. Hirakawa stopped on Lap-26 and Miyata on Lap-29 which brought Nojiri back onto the leading position, followed by Oyu 5.669 sec. behind and Hirakawa further 5.729 sec. back.
Hirakawa running on fresh tires quickly closed up on Oyu whose grips had almost gone and thus struggling to maintain his pace. On Lap-33 at S-corner, Oyu had no other choice but to surrender his position to Hirakawa and dropped 3rd.
In the meantime, Nojiri was driving in full-control mode, went on to run the remaining four laps while keeping some 10-sec. gap from Hirakawa, and achieved his second win in this season. The 3rd place came down to Oyu, his first ever podium finish, after he had fended off Miyata’s hot pursuit in the closing laps.
As the results, Nojiri added 23 points for the win and an extra point by the pole position up to a total of 84-points, climbed up to 3rd overall in the point ranking behind Miyata, current point leader with 94-points, and Lawson in 2nd with 86-points. These top three drivers will fight for the title in the last double header event of the series (R-8 & 9) at Suzuka Circuit scheduled on October 28 (Sat) and 29 (Sun).