The 5th round of the 2022 Super Formula series was held at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi Pref.) on June 18 and 19, 2022.
Although the Touhoku region had entered rainy season a few days ago, Sportsland SUGO on Saturday saw the morning sun occasionally shining through the clouds and both the ambient and road surface temperatures were creeping up while the plot of qualifying sessions thickened.
Q1 session held in the afternoon was disturbed by a wild Japanese serow came blundering into the track and the session was suspended for a short time. After this mishap, things went on smoothly all through to Q2 session in which Tomoki Nojiri (#1 TEAM MUGEN) demonstrated a crushing speed and seized the fourth-straight pole position in the series. Hiroki Otsu (#6 DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING) came in 3rd and Toshiki Oyu (#65 TCS NAKAJIMA RACING) 5th on the starting grid.
The race day on June 19, Sunday, met a passing shower just half an hour before the start time, however, the water on the hot tarmac immediately evaporated and the race begun under dry conditions. Nojiri starting from the pole was robbed of the inside position by Sacha Fenestraz (KONDO RACING) who made a brilliant take off from the 2nd grid, and the top two cars switched positions as they coming out of the first corner. Oyu, on the contrary, made a superb departure from the 5th grid, and climbed up to 3rd behind Nojiri with his dexterous maneuvers. Moment later, a car stranded at the track side after a first corner contact, and Safety Car was introduced till the end of 7th lap to clear the aftermath. The action was resumed from the 8th lap, but in no time, another accident happened at the first corner yet again, and Safety Car was on duty in succession. For this time, the SC period exceeded the minimum 10-lap restraint for tire change which provided a forked road to teams where they had to choose either to come in right away or stay out.
All top four runners, i.e., Fenestraz, Nojiri, Oyu, Otsu decided to stop right at the end of 10th lap, but Ritomo Miyata (Kuo VANTELIN TOM’S) and some others preferred to stay out and kept on going. During this first pit-in rush, Oyu got back to the race a fraction earlier than Nojiri and put himself up to 2nd thanks to the brisk pit work.
The green flag was waved at the end of 14th lap, and the race begun unfolding in a two-way battle: The virtual top group that had already changed tires, with Fenestraz, Oyu and Nojiri fiercely fighting with each other at the forefront, chased hard the apparent race leader, Miyata, running some twenty seconds ahead.
Things were not necessarily developing fine with Miyata and other “late-stoppers.” It was highly likely that the 53-lap race would be cut off due to the maximum duration of the race stipulated at 70-minutes. This substantially nullified the “stay-out” strategy and therefore, Fenestraz, Oyu, Nojiri and other early-stoppers invariably retrieved higher positions. In the end, the 5th round of the 2022 Super Formula series was reduced to 49-laps, and Fenestraz achieved his maiden win in the category. Oyu and Nojiri finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Nojiri has accumulated the total point up to 81, leading the series with Ryo Hirakawa (carenex TEAM IMPUL) following 2nd minus 17-points. The next round will be held at Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Pref.) on July 16-17, 2022.