Junior Single Seater Race Weekend Round-Up – 21-23 June 2019

by Paul Hensby

Round three of the Super Formula championship took place at the Sugo circuit in Japan, while the Asian Formula 3 championship made its first ever visit to the Suzuka International Racing Course.

Super Formula – Sugo

Naoki Yamamoto took a lights-to-flag victory at Sugo to extend his advantage at the top of the championship in a race where a variety of pit stop strategies played out to mix up the order.

The DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing driver took the honours at the end of the sixty-eight lap race having made the decision to pit with just sixteen laps remaining, whereas others made the choice to pit as early as they could, some even making the stop on the opening lap.

One of those drivers to pit early was Team Mugen’s Tomoki Nojiri, who looked on course to take the lead when Yamamoto hit pit lane, only to lose time in traffic, meaning that when his rival did pit, he was still behind him as well as B-Max with Motopark’s Lucas Auer, another late visitor to the pits.

Nojiri attempted to pass Auer but made a mistake in doing so at turn one, finding himself beached in the gravel trap and out of the race, causing a safety car intervention as his car was removed.  Shortly after the restart, the safety car was out again as Sho Tsuboi spun out at SP corner.

When the safety car left the track for the second time, there was only three laps remaining, but Yamamoto drove away from the field to claim the victory, while lapped traffic cost Auer second to carrozzeria Team KCMG’s Kamui Kobayashi.  However, the Red Bull Junior was able to claim his maiden Super Formula podium in third.

Vantelin Team TOM’SNick Cassidy claimed fourth ahead of TCS Nakajima Racing’s Alex Palou, however the latter was later handed a penalty, relegating him to thirteenth in the final result, promoting DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing’s Nirei Fukuzumi to fifth ahead of Kondo Racing’s Kenta Yamashita.

JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING’s Hiroaki Ishiura took seventh, while the final point went the way of Kondo Racing’s Yuji Kunimoto, with the top ten being completed by Real Racing’s Koudai Tsukakoshi and Team Inpul’s Yuhi Sekiguchi.

Daniel Ticktum had a poor afternoon and ended a lapped fifteenth for Team Mugen, just ahead of UOMO Sunoco Team LeMansArtem Markelov, while British racer Harrison Newey was an early retiree.

Naoki Yamamoto took his first win of 2019 at Sugo – Credit: Super Formula

Asian Formula 3 – Suzuka International Racing Course

Hitech Grand Prix continue to dominate the Asian Formula 3 championship, with Jack Doohan claiming a double victory at the Suzuka International Racing Course, but it should have been a hat trick for the Australian as a mistake cost him the race two win, which was taken by team-mate Ukyo Sasahara.

Race One

The first race of the weekend saw Doohan jump pole sitter Sasahara at the start, but it was not long before the safety car was needed as a stalled Tomoki Takahashi was hit on the grid by Super Licence team-mate Takashi Hata, ending both their races in spectacular fashion. 

Luckily, both drivers were unhurt in the incident, but the safety car was needed for a significant period as the debris was cleared up, and there was around ten minutes remaining when the green flag flew once more.

Doohan led away at the restart, keeping Sasahara behind him comfortably as he took the first victory of the weekend on the series’ first ever visit to Suzuka, with just over six-tenths of a second separating the Hitech Grand Prix team-mates at the chequered flag.

Petr Ptácek, making his series debut with Seven GP in Japan, claimed a podium finish in his first race after coming out on top of a battle with Jordan Dempsey of Pinnacle Motorsport, with the Irishman ultimately dropping to sixth at the chequered flag as both Daniel Cao of Absolute Racing and Brendon Leitch of BlackArts Racing finding their way ahead.

Jackson Walls, another driver making his series debut at Suzuka for Hitech Grand Prix, claimed an excellent seventh ahead of B-Max Racing Team’s Kiyoto Fujinami, while Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris and ZEN Motorsport’s Yu Kuai completed the top ten.

BlackArts Racing’s Thomas Luedi took the honours in the Masters class ahead of 852 ChallengersPaul Wong.

Jack Doohan took victory in race one for Hitech Grand Prix – Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Race Two

Sasahara jumped into the lead at the start of race two ahead of pole sitter Doohan, but the positions switched back to their originals as the Japanese racer made a mistake at turn two as he suffered with a gear selection issue. 

Leitch was challenging Daniel Cao for third position when he made a mistake at the Degner Curves, clipping the barrier at Degner 2 and re-joining in sixth.  However, the Kiwi stopped on track the following lap to bring out the safety car.

As the field assembled and readied themselves for the restart, Doohan accidentally triggered his car’s throttle safe algorithm, meaning he ground to a halt at Spoon.  He was able to get going again but was forced to settle for tenth place when a second win of the weekend was on the cards.

Not long after the restart, Takahashi crashed out to end what had been a spirited performance from the Japanese racer to climb through the field and into a good points scoring position.  His crash necessitated the deployment of the safety car once more, and the race ended with it still on track with Sasahara the victor.

Cao took second ahead of Wells, while Ptácek and Fujinami completed the top five ahead of Pieris, Koyama, Kuai, Akash Gowda (M-Sport Asia) and the unfortunate Doohan, while Wong was victorious in the Masters class ahead of Luedi.

Race Three

Ptácek started the final race of the weekend from pole position but jumped the start, but it would be a clash with Sasahara that would have a more dramatic effect on the race.

Sasahara had jumped up to second and made a dive on Ptácek for the lead, but the Japanese driver locked up and clashed with the Czech driver, dropping his rival down the field and earning the championship leader a drive-through penalty.

He pitted first to replace a punctured tyre before making the additional trip through the pits for his penalty, ultimately finishing ninth, while Ptácek also took a drive-through for his jump start but retired in the pits.

Doohan was able to inherit the lead after an early pass on Fujinami after the Japanese racer had jumped ahead of him at the start, and the Australian was always in control of the race thereafter for his second win of the weekend.

Fujinami was on course for second but retired on the final lap, with Leitch, who started tenth on the grid, taking the position as a result ahead of Dempsey, who claimed his maiden series podium in third.

Pieris and Wells battled right until the chequered flag with the former coming out on top for fourth place, with Kuai sixth ahead of Koyama, Gowda, the penalised Sasahara, and Masters class winner Leudi, who got the better of rival Wong once more.

As well as Ptácek and Fujinami, retirements also came for Tommy Smith (Pinnacle Motorsport) on the final lap as well as Cao, while Takahashi was a non-starter due to the damage caused by his race two crash.

Jack Doohan ended the weekend with a second win at Suzuka in race three – Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

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