Autopolis Super Formula: Nojiri beats Yamamoto to win

Honda driver Tomoki Nojiri scored his and Team Mugen's first Super Formula victory of the season at Autopolis after overcoming Naoki Yamamoto in a tense conclusion to the race.

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After making his mandatory tyre stop early, poleman Nojiri spent the bulk of the 41-lap race in fourth as Yamamoto, Nick Cassidy and Ukyo Sasahara went for long first stints.

Yamamoto led after the second of two safety car periods and set a metronomic pace at the head of the field, quickly gapping Cassidy and putting himself in a position to threaten Nojiri - who held a net lead but struggled for pace immediately after the restart.

Eight laps after the restart, Yamamoto had put 15 seconds between himself and Nojiri, and by lap 30 the gap was out to over 20 seconds.

Yamamoto was just over 25 seconds clear when he pitted with two laps to go at the end of lap 39, and although he emerged clearly behind Nojiri he set a blistering pace on his fresh tyres and closed down a four-second deficit to just 0.6s at the chequered flag.

After Cassidy and Sasahara made their stops, Nakajima Racing's Tadasuke Makino, who was challenging Nojiri for the net lead before the second safety car, was promoted to third and maintained that position for his first Super Formula podium.

Next up were the best of the Toyota finishers, Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG) and Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing), followed by series returnee Nobuharu Matsushita (B-Max).

Matsushita had fought his way up from sixth on the grid to fourth with a strong start, but lost out to Kunimoto and Yamashita during the pitstop phase.

TOM'S driver Cassidy slotted in seventh ahead of his substitute teammate Ritomo Miyata, who briefly got ahead when Cassidy was struggling on cold tyres only for the reigning champion to swiftly return the favour.

Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion) was the big loser of the second safety car period, as he had run second behind Nojiri early on but slid all the way to 11th, finally recovering to ninth.

Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima) completed the top 10 after serving a drive-through penalty for illegally retaking his start position after stalling on the grid before the formation laps.

From 19th on the grid after his qualifying crash, points leader Ryo Hirakawa could only manage 12th in the end, although he had been running 10th before dropping to the rear of the field during the pitstop phase due to a slow stop.

Impul driver Hirakawa nonetheless still leads the championship, albeit by a reduced margin of 11 points over Cassidy.

Sasahara (Mugen) ended up 14th after his stop, having also stalled on the grid at the start.

Charles Milesi was 15th for B-Max on his Super Formula debut, a place ahead of Tatiana Calderon on the Colombian's return to the series.

Sacha Fenestraz's miserable run of luck continued as he lost his rear-left wheel on lap five, causing the first safety car, while a race-ending puncture for podium challenger Sho Tsuboi (Inging) was the cause of the second caution period on lap 12.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Laps Gap
1 16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 41  
2 5 Japan Naoki Yamamoto DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 41 0.664
3 64 Japan Tadasuke Makino TCS Nakajima Racing 41 9.736
4 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto carrozzeria Team KCMG 41 10.760
5 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 41 11.455
6 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita Buzz Racing with B-Max 41 12.114
7 1 New Zealand Nick Cassidy Vantelin Team TOM'S 41 13.274
8 36 Japan Ritomo Miyata Vantelin Team TOM'S 41 17.520
9 6 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 41 19.661
10 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 41 23.593
11 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 41 24.380
12 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 41 25.276
13 38 Japan Hiroaki Ishiura JMS 41 28.273
14 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 41 29.400
15 51 France Charles Milesi Buzz Racing with B-Max 41 36.401
16 12 Colombia Tatiana Calderon ThreeBond Drago CORSE 41 37.326
17 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima ROOKIE Racing 41 37.795
18 7 Japan Yuichi Nakayama carrozzeria Team KCMG 41 56.079
19 39 Japan Sho Tsuboi JMS 11 30 Laps
20 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 4 37 Laps
Autopolis Super Formula: Nojiri on pole, Hirakawa crashes
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