Honda speed leaves Hirakawa "gloomy" about title chances
Honda's straight line speed advantage during Super Formula practice at Fuji Speedway has left Ryo Hirakawa "feeling gloomy" for his prospects of winning the title.
Impul Toyota driver Hirakawa heads into this weekend's final round level on points with Honda rival Naoki Yamamoto, and concluded Saturday's opening day of practice third-fastest.
Yamamoto meanwhile was only 13th-quickest across the two sessions as he didn't use any fresh tyres in the afternoon session, but Honda driver Tomoki Nojiri - who heads into the finale as an outsider for the crown - was fastest, heading up a one-two for Team Mugen.
While satisfied with his day's work, Hirakawa admitted that a gap of around 5km/h in the speed traps to the quickest Honda cars was troubling him.
"I think today I managed everything well, but I think there's definitely a small difference in engine performance [with the Honda runners]," said Hirakawa.
"I knew that would be the case, but it's something that's weighing on my mind and that I'm feeling gloomy about. It's also something that's difficult to change.
"If the Honda runners can tighten their grip [in qualifying], in the race they will also be fast. It's a worry, but anyway I just need to do my best and have no regrets.
"At the least, I definitely want to be the best of the Toyota runners."
Saturday pacesetter Nojiri sits eight points behind Hirakawa and Yamamoto in the standings, and due to Super Formula's new-for-2020 dropped scores rule he would need to outscore his rivals by at least 12 points this weekend to have any chance of the title.
Given that he needs his rivals to suffer misfortune, the Mugen driver says he is in a relaxed mood ahead of Sunday's decisive race.
"There are a lot of conditions that must be fulfilled for me to win, so at the very least I need to score qualifying points [awarded to the top three] and either win or get on the podium in the race," said Nojiri. "And if that isn't enough, that it can't be helped.
"I think it's good to be in such a position. The main contenders, Hirakawa, Yamamoto and Nick [Cassidy] have all won titles [in either SUPER GT or Super Formula], but personally I have nothing to worry about and I am able to just have fun.
"Of course I want to be champion, but I feel my performances recently have been good, and if this turns out not to be enough, then that's that. And even if I can't perform as well as usual, I won't have any regrets."
Tomoki Nojiri（TEAM MUGEN）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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Porsche driver Nick Tandy is expecting the pace of GTP cars to change "quite dramatically" when they switch to the new cold-temperature Michelin tire in this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Jaguar's Mitch Evans snatched top spot at the end of the Diriyah E-Prix's third free practice session, knocking Dan Ticktum off the top of the Formula E timing board.
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