Round 8

Nojiri goes pole to win. Race ends red-flagged due to an accident early in the race

jp Suzuka Circuit

The 7th event of the 2023 Super Formula series (R-8 and R-9) was held at Suzuka Circuit (Mie Pref.) on October 28 (Sat) and 29 (Sun), 2023.

Nojiri goes pole to win. Race ends red-flagged due to an accident early in the race

The so-called “double-header” format (2-races in 1-event) was chosen for the weekend in which the qualifying sessions and the race of R-8 and R-9 were held each on Saturday and Sunday, and the historic title of the “JAF Grand Prix” was at stake in the final round (R-9).

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 Riki Okusa, #55 Cem Bolukbasi (TGM Grand Prix), #64 Hiroki Otsu, #65 Ren Sato (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING). #64 Otsu was replacing Naoki Yamamoto who had sat out with injuries and so was #53 Okusa for Toshiki Oyu having some personal difficulties to continue the participation in the series. For #53 Okusa, R-8 is to be his debut to the Super Formula category.

The current status shows that #37 Ritomo Miyata stands at the top of the point ranking with 94-points in hand, #15 Lawson sitting 2nd with 86-points and #1 Nojiri 3rd with 84-points. A total of five drivers including the three mentioned above have chance to capture the season’s title, plus two others, #20 Ryo Hirakawa (51-points) and #38 Sho Tsuboi (50-points), albeit only mathematically.

On 28 (Sat), the day for R-8 began with a clear, cloudless sky. The 10-minute Q1 session started at 9:30 a.m. for A-group in which #15 Lawson did 2nd fastest, #6 Ohta 3rd, #65 Sato 5th and #50 Matsushita 6th. Q1 for B-group started at 9:45 a.m., and #1 Nojiri marked top time, #5 Makino 4th, #12 Fukuzumi 6th: A total of seven Honda drivers made way to Q2.

In the Q2 session started at 10:05 a.m., Sato went off the track when tires got warmed enough and time attacks just began. The session was suspended by red flag and restarted with 3-minutes left for the runners to do the last shot of each. As the track surface temperature was relatively low and thus the tires were not easily heated up, Nojiri masterly captured the pole position, on down, Makino came in 3rd, Ohta 4th, Lawson 7th and Matsushita 10th.

The 8th round of the 2023 Super Formula series was started at 2:30 p.m., on October 28 (Sat) under the ever clear sky. Nojiri launching from pole position made slick start and went first into Turn-1. While Makino delayed a bit from 3rd grid, Ohta showing superb dash from 4th grid simply got ahead of Makino, then sneaked inside of Miyata at Turn-1 and robbed the 2nd position for once. But soon after, Ohta coming up against a counterattack from Miyata had no other way but to retreat back to 3rd.

In the meantime, Nojiri, as he confirmed Miyata settled in 2nd, began elaborating his race plan for the first half of the race, when #64 Otsu and #36 Ukyo Sasahara tangled at 130R on Lap-4, and both cars heavily crashed into the barrier and the fence. The race was immediately red-flagged but never restarted because there was no way to repair the damaged fence within the limited time frame. The race was stopped for good and called official at the end of Lap-3 with half of the original points granted in accordance with the order as of Lap-3. Miyata stays at the top with a total of 103.5 points, came 2nd 6.5-points behind Nojiri with 97-points, and 3rd Lawson with 88.5-points, these three drivers essentially have chance to capture the title towards the final round.

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