Ryo Hirakawa insists he has "no regrets" about coming up two points shy of his first Super Formula title after losing out to Naoki Yamamoto in last weekend's title-deciding race at Fuji Speedway.
Impul driver Hirakawa went into the season finale level on points with Yamamoto, but ended up one place behind his rival at the finish in sixth place.
Having qualified only eighth, Hirakawa battled his way up to fifth in the early laps behind Yamamoto and stayed in that position until pitting on lap 14 of 40.
Hirakawa was able to make use of his warmer tyres to pass Yamamoto on the Dandelion Racing man's out lap, but his advantage was short-lived as Yamamoto repassed him along the start/finish straight at the end of that lap and stayed ahead for the remainder.
It marked Hirakawa's second title defeat at Fuji in the space of just three weeks following the dramatic conclusion to the SUPER GT season, but the 26-year-old was much more sanguine in his reaction to defeat this time around.
"We did a bit of a set-up change from [Saturday] and I was confident, but it wasn't as good as I thought it would be and we couldn't go back," Hirakawa told Motorsport.com.
"I did it in anticipation of the conditions, and I thought my time would improve in qualifying, but then the car started to slide more and more and I thought, 'that's strange'.
"It was a challenge, so I have no regrets. I pushed hard every lap in the race, so it was fun. Unless the driver in front made a mistake I couldn't pass, so I did the best I could."
Ryo Hirakawa（ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Hirakawa admitted after practice on Saturday that the speed of the Honda runners had made him pessimistic about his chances, and post-race he said that a set-up change in a bid to improve his straight line speed failed to have the desired affect.
"We reduced the downforce a lot, but on the straights it was still not enough [compared to Honda]," Hirakawa said. "We've talked to TRD and I'm sure they'll work on that next year. I think it's not good to have a such a difference in that area.
"But we were quick in the pits and I think we showed what we can do. In Okayama the pitstop was slow and [Sho] Tsuboi passed me, and in Autopolis the team wasn't ready.
"Then again, I crashed in qualifying at Autopolis, which wasn't good. Just like in SUPER GT, you can't afford to give away points."
Hirakawa's campaign began with a win from pole at Motegi, and he remained at the head of the standings from that point on until the first leg of the Suzuka double-header earlier this month, in which he was taken out in a crash by Ukyo Sasahara.
But looking back on the season, Hirakawa admitted that his race pace in the second half of the year wasn't good enough, pointing to fellow Toyota engine user Nick Cassidy's strong long-run speed towards the end of the year.
"Motegi was a piece of cake and I felt like I could go all the way if I kept going [like that]," he reflected. "I also got pole in Okayama and although we made a mistake in the pits, I felt I could fight in qualifying. But the problem is the race pace.
"If you look at Nick, he is very fast in the races. If I had been fighting with Nick I wouldn't have won the championship, so I think there is still a lot we can do in the race because are using the same engine. I want to try different things."