Junior Single Seater Race Weekend Round-Up – 24-27 October 2019

by Paul Hensby

Super Formula – Suzuka International Racing Course

Tomoki Nojiri took the final victory of the Super Formula season at the Suzuka International Racing Course, but it was Nick Cassidy who was celebrating the loudest as the New Zealander’s second place gave him the championship crown.

Team Mugen’s Nojiri and Vantelin Team TOM’S Cassidy both ran a similar strategy, starting the race on the soft tyres before pitting late in the race to switch to the mediums, with this decision ending up being the best way to attack the forty-three-lap race.

Championship contender Alex Palou had taken pole position but opted to start the race on the medium tyre, something that would have a negative effect on the TCS Nakajima Racing driver, although a loose cooling tube would make his afternoon an extremely difficult affair.

Nojiri pitted on lap thirty-three having had made a move on Palou on lap eight for the lead, and such was his advantage, he re-joined in second behind the yet-to-stop Lucas Auer.  Auer had already blotted his copybook by stalling on the grid and putting himself out of position.  He would ultimately miss out on points in eleventh after pitting on lap thirty-six.

When in the lead, Nojiri was untroubled and took his first victory in five years, while Cassidy’s second place, 2.532 seconds behind, ensured he became the champion as pre-race championship leader Naoki Yamamoto only managed fifth. 

Tomoko Nojiri took victory at Suzuka, his first win in five years – Credit: Super Formula

Nirei Fuzukumi completed the podium for DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing, with Team Impul’s Yuhi Sekiguchi ending fourth ahead of Yamamoto, who ended the season second in the championship, three points behind Cassidy.

JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING’s Hiroaki Ishiura took sixth ahead of Real Racing’s Koudai Tsukakoshi, who took his first points finish of the season in seventh, while Team Impul’s Ryo Hirakawa completed the points scorers in eighth.

Title outsiders Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) and Kamui Kobayashi (carrozzeri Team KCMG) ended outside the points in ninth and twelfth respectively, the latter bizarrely starting on wet tyres to avoid running the medium compound during the race, while Palou’s issues left him towards the back of the field in nineteenth, with the Spaniard making a second pit stop as they bid to solve the problem that affected their day.

Jüri Vips, making his series debut for Team Mugen, was eighteenth at the chequered flag having looked on course for a top ten finish, only for the Estonian to stall during his pit stop and lose significant ground.

“I don’t know what to say,” Champion Cassidy is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “My team are amazing. I’ve won every championship in Japan with TOM’S [Japanese F3 in 2015, Super GT in 2017], it says everything about them. They are a great group of people, like my family.

“It was so difficult [this season], there are so many great drivers in this championship, it’s hard to be on top all the time. But it’s about making the most of the days when you are not at the top and I think we did that well this year. When we were not fast, we got a good result.”

Nick Cassidy celebrates the championship after finishing second at Suzuka – Credit: Super Formula

Formula Renault Eurocup – Yas Marina Circuit

Race One

Oscar Piastri put one hand on the 2019 Eurocup title by winning the opening race of the weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, the first time the series raced under lights.

The penultimate race of the campaign saw Victor Martins put his MP Motorsport machine onto pole position, but a sluggish getaway from the Renault Sport Academy driver allowed R-ace GP’s Piastri to jump into the lead, with Lorenzo Colombo also making his way passed the Frenchman and into second place.

On lap five, MP Motorsport ordered Colombo to allow Martins through but try as he may, he was unable to do anything about Piastri, and the Australian took the victory, his seventh of the season, to take a twenty-and-a-half point advantage into the final race of the season with only twenty-five available.

After allowing Martins through, Colombo kept his place to complete the podium, although he was over eight seconds behind the race winner when the chequered flag fell.  This was even with a brief safety car intervention not long after Martins had taken second to recover the stricken Global Racing Service car of Xavier Lloveras.

Alexander Smolyar took fourth for R-ace GP, just ahead of Arden’s Sebastian Fernandez, while M2 Competition’s Kush Maini took rookie honours in sixth, just ahead of Arden’s Patrik Pasma and R-ace GP’s Caio Collet

The top ten was rounded out by MP Motorsport duo Amaury Cordeel and Matteo Nannini, although the latter was ineligible for points meaning Petr Ptácek took the final point for Bhaitech.

“I wasn’t too disappointed in qualifying, because we reduced the gap from 0.7s in the first practice session to 0.002s this morning,” said Piastri.  “It is always a bit frustrating when the gap is so close, but I was happy with the progress we made.

“My start wasn’t great because Lorenzo’s was better. However, I was able to take the lead and I only had to control the race although I saw Victor getting closer in my mirrors. I stayed focused to avoid making any errors.

“I made a few, but our pace was good enough to hold on to the lead. Tomorrow, the best way to secure the title will be to finish ahead so, I need to stay focused, continue to work like I have all season long and avoid taking unnecessary risks.”

Oscar Piastri took race one victory to close in on the title – Credit: Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

Race Two

Martins secured a sixth consecutive pole position for Saturday’s final race of the season, but despite taking the chequered flag first for his sixth victory of the season, it was not enough to deny Piastri the 2019 title.

Unlike in race one, Martins made a good start to keep the lead into turn one, while Colombo moved up to second ahead of Piastri.  On lap two, Collet made a good move to jump ahead of both Piastri and Nannini to run third, but the Australian did enough to hold off the Italian for fourth.

It was plain sailing at the front of the field, with Martins closing out the season with the win, with MP Motorsport team-mate Colombo and 2019 rookie champion Collet completing the podium, but fourth place was more than enough for Piastri to become the first Australian champion of Formula Renault Eurocup.

Nannini ended the day in fifth but was again eligible for points, with Smolyar the first of those to profit by finishing sixth.  Fernandez climbed from eleventh on the grid to finish the year off in seventh ahead of Arden team-mate Pasma, while Cordeel and Lloveras completed the top ten.  Ugo de Wilde finished eleventh but took home the final point of the season for JD Motorsport.

“Mixed feelings today,” said Martins.  “We could not have done better today with the pole and a good start that let me focus on my driving.

“I took each lap and corner one after the other to avoid mistakes, build a lead and win.  I am happy to win the last race of the season, but my poor start yesterday was really a shame. I have to focus on the future and I know how to keep improving.

“I would like to thank my team, because we had excellent pace from mid-season on to win nine poles, including six in a row, as well as six wins. Now we will see what the future has in store for me!”

Victor Martins (#11) took the final victory of 2019 in Abu Dhabi – Credit: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

Champion Piastri was naturally delighted to take the title by seven-and-a-half points, and he says his aim is to move up to the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2020.  He felt his R-ace GP team and Martins’ MP Motorsport outfit were the teams to beat this season, and it meant that even when faced with adversity, they were able to take valuable points by charging through the field.

“I think it will take some time to completely sink in,” said Piastri.  “I didn’t have a good race, but today wasn’t what was important.

“It was extremely competitive all season long and the 7.5-point gap means little in the end. R-ace GP and MP Motorsport were the two teams to beat this season, which made life easier for me to move up the order when we were struggling.

“Victor and I had rather similar campaigns. I was a bit faster in the middle of the year while Victor finished strong. I think that we were the two that got the most out of the new Formula Renault. However, we were able to capitalize when we were on form and limit the damage when there were difficulties or when we made mistakes.

“My target is to move on to the FIA Formula 3 Championship, but nothing is done as yet as I need to look at my different options.”

Oscar Piastri celebrates the 2019 championship with his team – Credit: Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

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