Makino to make Super Formula return at Autopolis

Honda driver Tadasuke Makino will return to Super Formula at Autopolis next week after missing the opening two rounds of the season due to illness.

Makino to make Super Formula return at Autopolis

Ex-Formula 2 racer Makino has been out of action since the end of last year due to meningitis, and has been continuing his recovery since being discharged from hospital in February.

After completing a private test at Suzuka last month, the Japanese driver made his first race appearance in over five months at SUPER GT's Fuji 500km Golden Week event last week, finishing fourth in the Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT he shared with Naoki Yamamoto and team's third driver Hideki Mutoh.

With a SUPER GT race under his belt, Makino will now brace himself for higher demands of a Super Formula car at the third round of the championship in Oita Prefecture on May 15-16.

This would mark his maiden race outing with Honda squad Dandelion Racing, having moved from Nakajima Racing over the winter in a direct swap with Yamamoto.

Apart from Makino's return, there are several other notable changes on the Autopolis entry list. 

As expected, Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi and Tatiana Calderon will all miss the event after taking part in the FIA World Endurance Championship's season-opening Spa 6 Hours race last week. Japan's current rules require all travellers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, which none of the drivers would be able to complete in time for the Autopolis race.

Nakajima's place at TOM'S alongside Ritomo Miyata will again be taken by Giuliano Alesi, who starred on his debut qualifying at Suzuka before finishing ninth in the race.

Kazuto Kotaka will stand in for Kobayashi at KCMG, joining 2016 champion Yuji Kunimoto at the Hong Kong-flagged outfit.

Drago Corse meanwhile has called Fuji SUPER GT race winner Koudai Tsukakoshi to replace Calderon. Tsukakoshi, a veteran of 11 Super Formula seasons, also subbed for Calderon at two races last year. 

"I had the chance to drive last year as well, but I'm grateful to be given another chance," said Tsukakoshi. "I would like to contribute to the team and get a good result. Also, I am simply looking forward to driving such a fast car as the Super Formula car."

Elsewhere, American teenager Yves Baltas and factory Toyota driver Sacha Fenestraz are both yet to begin their 2021 Super Formula campaigns due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Nobuharu Matsushita will compete as B-Max's sole driver again in the absence of Baltas, while Fenestraz will be replaced by Yuichi Nakayama at Kondo Racing for the third race in a row.

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