Hirakawa resigned to chance of second Fuji title defeat
Ryo Hirakawa says that the bitter experience of losing the SUPER GT title at Fuji Speedway means he's taking nothing for granted ahead of this weekend's final Super Formula round at the same track.
Impul Toyota driver Hirakawa heads into Sunday's decider level on points with Naoki Yamamoto as the pair prepare for a rerun of their battle in the closing stages of last month's dramatic SUPER GT finale.
On that occasion, it was Honda man Yamamoto that came out on top as long-time leader Hirakawa ran out of fuel within sight of the chequered flag.
Hirakawa led the Super Formula standings from the opening round of the season at Motegi until the first leg of this month's Suzuka double-header, in which the 26-year-old was caught up in a major Turn 1 crash with Ukyo Sasahara.
Yamamoto won that race to take the lead of the championship, but his advantage was wiped out in the following day's second race after he dropped out with gearbox trouble.
With Nick Cassidy also retiring from the lead with a blown engine, Hirakawa acknowledged he was lucky to finish seventh on a day his two nearest rivals scored nothing.
Ryo Hirakawa（ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
But he told Motorsport.com that losing the SUPER GT crown through no fault of his own has given him a philosophical approach to this weekend's pivotal race.
"It’s hard to comment [on the title situation]," Hirakawa said. "It was the same [in SUPER GT] and I think you just have to accept whatever happens.
"[In the second Suzuka race] I had luck on my side [compared to Yamamoto and Cassidy], but I don’t know what will happen at Fuji. If you get lucky, you get lucky."
Drivers' standings ahead of Fuji:
|Pos.||Driver||Team/Engine||Actual points||Gross points|
|2||Naoki Yamamoto||Dandelion Racing/Honda||55||55|
|5||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing/Toyota||34||34|
Asked if revenge was on his mind this weekend, Hirakawa replied: "If it’s possible, of course it would be great, but I don’t want to be greedy. I just hope I can finish the season with a good result, but anyway I will give it everything and accept whatever happens.
"Of course it was frustrating, what happened in Super GT. I did everything I could. And I’ll likewise do my best in Super Formula at Fuji."
Hirakawa pointed out that he set the fastest time during pre-season testing at Fuji way back in March, before the season was halted amid the global health crisis.
"I think it’s good we can settle it there," he said. "During the March test I had a good feeling and I set the top time. So I feel I can do very well."
Following the events of Suzuka, Hirakawa and Yamamoto now have two non-scores each this year, meaning that the new-for-2020 dropped score rule will not impact their battle.
On the other hand, outside title contenders Cassidy and Tomoki Nojiri will both have to discard their worst scores after Fuji, as Cassidy scored three points for pole even though he didn't finish the second Suzuka race.
Makino withdraws from Fuji Super Formula finale
Cassidy using "very old" engine for Super Formula decider