Autopolis Super Formula: Fukuzumi fastest in practice

Dandelion Honda driver Nirei Fukuzumi concluded the opening day of practice for this weekend's Autopolis Super Formula round quickest, as the previous lap record at the circuit was smashed.

Autopolis Super Formula: Fukuzumi fastest in practice
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Fresh from his first win in SUPER GT's top class at Motegi last weekend, Fukuzumi posted a 1m24.450s in the final minutes of the hour-long afternoon session at Autopolis to top the times by 0.162s ahead of championship leader Ryo Hirakawa.

Okayama race winner Sho Tsuboi had topped the morning's running with a 1m24.714s, which blew away the previous 1m25.799s benchmark set by Kamui Kobayashi during qualifying in 2018 - when the previous-generation SF14 car was still in use.

Watch the Super Formula race live from Autopolis at here.

Tsuboi's time went unchallenged for the bulk of the afternoon session, only falling after a late red flag period caused by two-time champion Naoki Yamamoto parking up his Dandelion machine at Turn 5 with a mechanical problem.

With two minutes left on the clock, Impul man Hirakawa was first to go faster than Tsuboi with a 1m24.612s, but that was soon bettered by Fukuzumi's final flyer.

Inging driver Tsuboi managed to improve on his morning time with a 1m24.645s, but fell 0.195s shy of Fukuzumi.



Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Three more Honda-powered drivers completed the top six, with Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing) taking fourth ahead of Tomoki Nojiri (Team Mugen) and Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima).

Ritomo Miyata, deputising for the absent Kazuki Nakajima at TOM'S, was second-fastest behind Tsuboi in the morning but didn't improve in the afternoon, ending up seventh overall, ahead of Kondo Racing's Sacha Fenestraz.

In his first Super Formula race weekend since the 2018 Suzuka finale, Nobuharu Matsushita was ninth-fastest for B-Max Racing ahead of Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG).

Yamamoto ended up 13th on the combined timesheets on the strength of his morning effort, one place ahead of reigning champion Nick Cassidy (TOM'S).

Last year's Autopolis winner Yuhi Sekiguchi's struggles continued in 17th place, one place behind series debutant Charles Milesi (B-Max), while returnee Tatiana Calderon (Drago Corse) propped up the timesheets in 20th place overall.

Qualifying groups determined

As per the first three races of the season, the drivers will be split between two groups in Q1 on Sunday morning, collectively fighting over 14 spots in Q2. The seven fastest drivers out of the 10 in each group will progress to Q2.

Group A: Nick Cassidy, Sacha Fenestraz, Nirei Fukuzumi, Yuichi Nakayama, Tatiana Calderon, Tomoki Nojiri, Yuki Sekiguchi, Hiroaki Ishiura, Nobuharu Matsushita, Tadasuke Makino.

Group B: Kenta Yamashita, Naoki Yamamoto, Kazuya Oshima, Ukyo Sasahara, Yuji Kunimoto, Ryo Hirakawa, Ritomo Miyata, Sho Tsuboi, Charles Milesi, Toshiki Oyu.

Practice results (afternoon session only):

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 6 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'24.450  
2 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1'24.612 0.162
3 39 Japan Sho Tsuboi JMS 1'24.645 0.195
4 64 Japan Tadasuke Makino TCS Nakajima Racing 1'24.874 0.424
5 16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 1'24.879 0.429
6 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 1'24.890 0.440
7 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 1'25.001 0.551
8 36 Japan Ritomo Miyata Vantelin Team TOM'S 1'25.035 0.585
9 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita Buzz Racing with B-Max 1'25.111 0.661
10 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 1'25.151 0.701
11 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto carrozzeria Team KCMG 1'25.275 0.825
12 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 1'25.322 0.872
13 1 New Zealand Nick Cassidy Vantelin Team TOM'S 1'25.678 1.228
14 38 Japan Hiroaki Ishiura JMS 1'25.719 1.269
15 51 France Charles Milesi Buzz Racing with B-Max 1'25.764 1.314
16 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1'25.846 1.396
17 7 Japan Yuichi Nakayama carrozzeria Team KCMG 1'26.155 1.705
18 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima ROOKIE Racing 1'26.691 2.241
19 12 Colombia Tatiana Calderon ThreeBond Drago CORSE 1'27.242 2.792
20 5 Japan Naoki Yamamoto DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'28.132 3.682

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