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Hirakawa: Impul recovery now the focus, not faltering title bid

Ryo Hirakawa says his focus for the remainder of the Super Formula season is to bring Impul back to its former competitiveness, conceding the title is all but out of reach.

Ryo Hirakawa, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Toyota star Hirakawa finds himself a distant fifth in the championship with four races to go, trailing leader Ritomo Miyata by 47 points, with a best finish so far of third place in both the opening race at Fuji and the third round at Suzuka.

The Impul driver’s already fading title hopes were dealt a huge blow in last month’s Sugo race in which he failed to score points in 11th, while TOM’S driver Miyata scored a second win of the season.

Team-mate Yuhi Sekiguchi meanwhile has yet to score points this season.

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Looking ahead to the remaining four races, starting with this weekend’s sixth round at Fuji, Hirakawa says closing the performance gap to both Miyata and Team Mugen pair Liam Lawson and Tomoki Nojiri is his main goal.

“We are not in a position to fight for the championship, so the priority is to come back as a team, like we were two years ago,” he told Motorsport.com. 

“We need to make a ‘proper’ car and get back at least to fighting for the podium, because for the last few races I couldn’t compete with the guys who are fighting for the championship. We were far behind in terms of pace. 

“The priority is to get the car back in a good way. Our performance level has been so low since [the opening weekend at] Fuji. Miyata and Mugen are on a different planet, so we have to find something.”

 

Along with the rest of the Super Formula field, Hirakawa was in action for last month’s in-season test at Fuji, ending up eighth-fastest on the second day of running, three tenths behind pacesetter Naoki Yamamoto.

While he admitted the first day of the test was essentially squandered by a mistake on the set-up, he was encouraged by the race pace he demonstrated on the second day, although concedes the cool temperatures are unlikely to be representative of the conditions teams will face this weekend.

“For me it was only really a one-day test but it was quite good, I think,” Hirakawa said. “The issue is that the test was cool, and cooler temperatures are good for us. We were strong in the opening weekend [at Fuji], but then when it got warmer, we struggled more.

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“At Sugo, I qualified P5 which was our best result for more than a year, so I think we made a step, and now we’ve made another positive step in the test. 

“We were able to try another concept and I was the fastest on old tyres. But when I put on new tyres, I didn’t go any faster than when I had old tyres, so I think we still need to find something in qualifying.”

Motorsport.tv is showing all Super Formula qualifying sessions and races live in 2023. Click here for further information and to sign up today.

 

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