Despite the coronavirus pandemic continuing to cause cancellations, postponements and pandemonium across the globe, Super Formula continued with their plan to run their test days at the Fuji Speedway at the end of March.
It gave the seasoned veterans, young and rookie drivers the chance to get behind the wheel of their Honda or Toyota-powered machines ahead of the new season, whenever it becomes safe enough for it to begin.
Day 1 – Morning Session
Ryō Hirakawa was the fastest driver in the morning session last Tuesday, with the Itochu Enex Team Impul driver setting a best time of 1:21.342 around the former home of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, 0.054 seconds faster than former FIA Formula 2 racer Tadasuke Makino of TCS Nakajima Racing.
The session began quietly due to cool track conditions, but there were two red flag intervals within the first thirty minutes, with Tatiana Calderón causing the first after suffering a throttle issue that caused her to spin her Drago Corse with ThreeBond machine off the track at turn ten.
The second quickly followed as Kamui Kobayashi lost control of his carrozzeria Team KCMG machine at turn two, ending his session after sustaining damage.
“Nothing [to explain],” Kobayashi said to Motorsport.com about the accident. “I just accelerated, I just spin and I crashed. Shit happens.
“It’s so hard with these tyres, and quite lot of power, with cold tyres… it’s very hard.
“But yeah, in the afternoon we did some decent set-up changes, try to understand the car. I think we’re ok, it’s not brilliant for us, to try and rebuild the car, understand more…”
“[The damage] wasn’t too bad. It just took a bit of a while [to fix].”
Nirei Fukuzumi set an early lap of 1:22.675 to set the pace for before Naoki Yamamoto hit top spot with a time of 1:21.480, which looked for a long time it would be the best of the session. However, with new tyres on his car, Hirawaka stole top spot from the DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing driver.
Yamamoto’s best was good enough for third ahead of Team Mugen’s Tomoki Nojiri, while Kondo Racing’s Kenta Yamashita completed the top five ahead of Fukuzumi and 2019 Japanese Formula 3 champion Sacha Fenestraz.
Kazuki Nakajima (Vantelin Team TOM’S), Yuhi Sekiguchi (Itochu Enex Team Impul) and Hiroaki Ishiura (JMS P.mu/cerumo – INGING) completed the top ten, while reigning Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy was fourteenth for Vantelin Team TOM’S.
Fenestraz was the leading rookie in seventh for Kondo Racing, with Toshiki Oyu of TCS Nakajima Racing eleventh, Charles Milesi and Sérgio Sette Câmara fifteenth and sixteenth respectively for B-Max with Motopark, and Calderón nineteenth after managing to get back on track following her early issues.
Day 1 – Afternoon Session
Times improved in the afternoon session, but Hirakawa again set the pace, his best lap of 1:20.677 just 0.017 seconds ahead of Fukuzumi, while Oyu impressed with the third best time, just 0.036 seconds off the overall pace.
Yamamoto continued his positive start to the test with the fourth fastest time ahead of Nojiri, who ensured Honda-powered cars filled four of the top five places, although the fastest time was set by a Toyota-powered car.
Nakajima concluded the opening day with the sixth fastest ahead of Team Mugen’s Jüri Vips, the Red Bull Junior Team driver enjoying a much stronger afternoon than he achieved in the morning where he placed seventeenth.
Makino followed his second place from the morning session with eighth in the afternoon, while the top ten was completed by Sekiguchi and Fenestraz.
Kobayashi was able to get out on track after his morning crash and set the twelfth fastest time, while Cassidy was one of a few drivers not to put on new tyres in the final ten minutes in a bid to improve, the New Zealander ending down in seventeenth.
Day 2 – Morning Session
Fukuzumi ended Hirakawa’s streak as he ended Wednesday morning’s session with the fastest time, although the former FIA Formula 2 and GP3 Series racer’s best time of 1:20.785 was just over a tenth of a second slower than the best time set on day one.
Fukuzumi ended 0.157 seconds clear of Team Mugen’s Nojiri, while Hirakawa placed third just over four-tenths of a second down on the session topping time. The leading rookie again was the impressive Oyu, who put his TCS Nakajima Racing machine into fourth ahead of Vips.
Cassidy improved on his Tuesday showing with the sixth fastest time ahead of team-mate Nakajima, while JMS P/mu /cerumo – Inging’s Sho Tsuboi was eight just ahead of Fenestraz and Yamashita.
There was a single red flag during the session when Makino stopped on track at turn two with a mechanical issue, with the one-time FIA Formula 2 race winner ending sixteenth fastest.
Sette Câmara had a much better more session on day two as he missed out on the top ten by just 0.065 seconds, while fellow rookies Milesi and Calderón were seventeenth and twentieth respectively.
Day 2 – Afternoon Session
Fukuzumi ended the final session of the two-day test on top once more, his 1:21.207 almost a quarter of a second clear of the chasing pack that was headed by the impressive Hirakawa.
There were three stoppages during the session, with Nakajima spinning off at turn four triggering the first before the two KCMG of Kobayashi and Yuji Kunimoto both suffered punctures, the former at turn four and the latter later in the session at turn nine.
Vips was the early pacesetter but fell to seventh as times tumbled late in the session, with Fukuzumi ending the day on top, while Fenestraz was the leading rookie in third, just 0.435 seconds behind the best time of the session but 0.020 seconds ahead of two-time champion Yamamoto.
Sekiguchi ended fifth ahead of another rookie in Oyu, while Vips was followed by Sette Câmara, with Makino and Kobayashi completing the top ten ahead of Cassidy and Nakajima.
Calderón once again brought up the rear as the Colombian, a development driver for the Alfa Romeo Racing Formula 1 Team, continued to adapt to the Super Formula car.