Sacha Fenestraz took an impressive podium finish at Twin Ring Motegi on his Super Formula debut, although it could have been better than third after being jumped at the start by Kondō Racing team-mate Kenta Yamashita.
The French-Argentine racer took an impressive second place on the grid for his maiden Super Formula race, with the 2019 Japanese Formula 3 champion ending just three-tenths of a second way from pole man Ryō Hirakawa.
It was particularly impressive as he had not spent much time in a Super Formula car this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but after making changes to his Toyota-powered car, he was able to improve significantly from Friday practice for Qualifying.
“I was over the moon with qualifying,” said Fenestraz. “I was unsure if we would make it into Q3 after free practice, maybe Q2 but not Q3.
“However, the team worked hard through the night and we made good changes to the car so I was able qualify P2 in my first qualifying session in Super Formula.”
Temperatures rose for race day, but Fenestraz was unable to hold on to second place at the start, with Yamashita finding his way ahead.
With overtaking near impossible and with pit stops made almost obsolete by rule changes, a procession unfolded, with the former Renault Sport Academy star ending just 3.331 seconds from race winner Hirakawa.
“It was a very hot race, I was told after the race that I lost over a kilogram of weight,” said Fenestraz. “Fortunately I didn’t find it physically tough.
“Managing the tyres became very important as we were using the same tyres for nearly an hour. Overall I think we did a very good job this weekend. The support from Toyota and the team was great to manage to finish P3 in the race.”
Fenestraz leaves Twin Ring Motegi third in the championship standings, with the next round coming up at Okayama International Circuit on the final weekend of September.