Round 9

Ohta takes first win in season finale

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.

Ohta takes first win in season finale

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).

The morning sky looked even clearer and brighter on 28 (Sun) under which the qualifying session of R-9 started at 8:50. As in Q1, A-group, Nojiri, Ohta and Matsushita went through to Q2, whereas in Q1, B-group, Lawson, Makino and Fukuzumi did the same. In the Q2 session, Nojiri was the first to mark the fastest time, but Lawson soon outran it, then Ohta followed suit. As the results, Lawson took the pole position sharing the front row with Ohta who came in 2nd, and Nojiri (3rd) and Miyata (4th) sat side by side on the second row to start the final showdown.

The final round of the 2023 Super Formula series, a.k.a., JAF Grand Prix, was started at 2:30 p.m. on October 29 (Sun). While Ohta made yet another superb start, Lawson took off from the pole position a bit stiffly, thus giving Nojiri some room to run alongside into Turn-1. As Ohta already got first out the corner and set to run away, Lawson followed behind after pinning down Nojiri who, in turn, had to give way also to Miyata obviously working at full blast.

Ohta kept on running strong at the top, then made his stop at the end of Lap-14, duly changed the set of tires and returned the track. When he was joining the course, Lawson who had finished his stop in the previous lap rapidly closed in on, however, Ohta veering through the back markers fended off the charge from Lawson and Miyata, and maintained his virtual top position.

All top three drivers, Ohta, Lawson and Miyata, had changed each tires earlier, but Nojiri opted for a late stop strategy and naturally moved up from 4th to the top position albeit only apparent. Nojiri made his stop at the end of Lap-23 and returned to the track in 4th only to see the plan sadly slipped off.

Nojiri had further lost his position to Matsushita while running on cold tires, however, once they got to the temperature, he chased back on Matsushita and passed him at the last corner on Lap-26. At this point, Nojiri’s direct competitor, Miyata was running far ahead, and the 15-second gap in-between was almost beyond Nojiri's reach. At the very end, Ohta breaking away from Lawson received the top checker and achieved the maiden victory in the Super Formula category at the 9th round since his debut in the series this year. Lawson finished 2nd, 1.538-sec. behind, Nojiri 4th, Matsushita 7th and Makino 10th, all within point-scoring placings. Miyata finishing 3rd became the new series champion with the total of 114.5-points, and Lawson won the runner-up position with 106.5-points, and Nojiri was ranked overall 3rd with 106-points. As for the team ranking, TEAM MUGEN accumulating 188.5-point in total, whereas VANTERIN TEAM TOM’S following in 2nd with 109.5-points, and seized the 2023 championship series.

Kakunoshin Ohta
Kakunoshin Ohta 6
Absolutely happy that I could achieve my first win in my debut year. The start has often been my worry in this season, and I was a little bit concerned about it. Fortunately, I did it quite well just like I did the day before. But, while I could hold onto the top position somehow, Liam’s pace was good too, which made my afternoon very stressful. In the closing laps, I had absolutely no idea how much margin my pursuers had at that time, and that caused me feel pressure even more. When I was into the final lap, I thought, “I’m winning!” and also predicted, “I’m not gonna cry,” however, my eyes were brimming with tears the moment I crossed the line. The first half of the season was just a struggle for me. But then, I could raise my bid steadily and continually through to the end, and rounded off the season with the victory. It’s just great. The condition of my car was almost perfect, which is quite encouraging for me to look ahead the next season. I’ll try to maintain this momentum and do my best to be in the title contention.

Liam Lawson
Liam Lawson 15
It’s been very tough but fantastic season for me. I’m pally with some drivers who already had the Super Formula experience, and they unanimously told me that the level of the series was very high, the competition was tough and should took some time before you make decent results. This has been a big opportunity for me, and I was ready to learn whatever I need to learn. Our car in this weekend was just wonderful both in qualifying sessions and the race, and that made me feel sorry even more for not being able to take advantage of the opportunity I had in my hand. Nevertheless, I think I’d learnt many things from the Super Formula series that would help the career path leading to F1.

Tomoki Nojiri
Tomoki Nojiri 1
I feel sorry for not being able to finish the race in the way our fans wish to be. My start was not bad so that I could go into Turn-1 first, however, I had sensed Miyata’s pace would possibly be better than mine. Even while I was leading the race, I always knew things won’t go easy for me. I felt like the momentum was still for us when R-8 closed that way because we could reduce the point gap anyway. But when it came to R-9, we failed to accumulate small bit of things, that’s my impression. I deeply regret that my third successive title had slipped out from my hand, but I think I did my best.

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