Autopolis Super Formula: Alesi wins truncated race

Giuliano Alesi claimed his maiden Super Formula victory in a rain-shortened race at Autopolis on Sunday, as points leader Tomoki Nojiri charged from outside the top 10 to fifth.

Having qualified on pole position in a tricky wet weather qualifying on Saturday, Alesi led all 13 completed laps of the 42-lap contest to claim the TOM’S team first victory since last season’s Sugo round.

It was only the second outing in Super Formula for Alesi, who was substituting for Kazuki Nakajima following the ex-Formula 1 driver’s trip to the Spa round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Multiple F2 race winner Nobuharu Matsushita took full advantage of the chaos that ensued on the opening lap to jump from 13th to third, and then secured a career-best second after Yuhi Sekiguchi ran wide at the final corner just as the race was about to resume after a safety car period.

Alesi’s teammate Ritomo Miyata had started second but dropped down the order after running wide at Turn 1 at the start, recovering to finish fourth behind the Inging car of Sena Sakaguchi, and just ahead of a charging Nojiri.

Mugen driver Nojiri dropped outside of the points positions on the first lap but rapidly moved through the field between the two safety car interruptions, with the highlight being a triple pass on Kazuto Kotaka, Toshiki Oyu and the struggling Sekiguchi on the run down to Turn 1.

He was eventually classified fifth, ahead of teammate Hiroki Otsu in the Red Bull-branded Mugen car.

Oyu finished seventh for Nakajima Racing, while Kazuya Oshima - who crashed heavily in qualifying - rose from 16th on the grid to finish eighth.

Three-time Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima Racing) moved up to ninth following a five-second safety car infringement penalty for Sekiguchi, who finished 10th.

Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion) was likewise given a five-second penalty for contact, dropping him to 12th.

With less than 75% of the race completed, only half points were awarded, with Alesi bagging 10 points on top of the three he scored for claiming pole on Saturday.

Both last year’s runner-up Ryo Hirakawa and Sho Tsuboi retired after spinning on their own at Turn 1 on the opening lap, prompting the first safety car deployment of the day.

A second safety car was called on lap 11 as the rain and fog worsened, before the race was red flagged on the following tour.

The organisers waited for more than half an hour for conditions to improve and the race was provisionally supposed to resume at 4.20pm local time, only for it to be delayed again.

Finally, at 4.30pm a decision was made to not resume the race, and with less than 75% of the planned distance completed, half points were awarded.

That means Nojiri continues to lead the championship with 48 points ahead of Hirakawa (23) and Oyu (21).

UPDATE: Matsushita was later handed a five-second time penalty for a start line infringement, dropping him to third behind Sakaguchi.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Laps Gap
1 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 11  
2 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 11 7.521
3 51 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 11 7.755
4 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 11 8.236
5 16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 11 11.325
6 15 Japan Hiroki Otsu Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh 11 17.624
7 64 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 11 20.596
8 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima NTT Communications ROOKIE 11 23.793
9 1 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 11 34.572
10 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 11 36.012
11 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 11 38.731
12 12 Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 11 39.956
13 5 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 11 42.205
14 6 Japan Tadasuke Makino DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 11 46.216
15 4 Japan Yuichi Nakayama Kondo Racing 11 52.311
16 7 Japan Kazuto Kotaka KCMG 10 1 Lap
17 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 0  
18 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 0  
19 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 0  
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