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Super Formula Suzuka II

Miyata felt Super Formula title was “hopeless” against Mugen duo

Newly-crowned Super Formula champion Ritomo Miyata admits he felt in a “hopeless” situation against Team Mugen rivals Liam Lawson and Tomoki Nojiri prior to last weekend’s Suzuka finale.

Miyata went into the double-header at the Honda-owned Japanese Grand Prix venue as Toyota’s only genuine title contender, with Lawson and Nojiri eight and 10 points back respectively.

Second behind Nojiri in a crash-shortened opening race of the weekend on Saturday meant Miyata’s lead was cut to just 4.5 points over the reigning champion after qualifying for Sunday’s decider.

After qualifying fourth, TOM’S man Miyata crucially passed Nojiri for third off the line and held position to finish in the same positions behind first-time Kakunoshin Ota and Lawson to guarantee himself the crown, a first for Toyota since 2019.

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Looking back on the events of Sunday, Miyata said he feared Mugen could even deploy team orders in a bid to ensure the team’s third consecutive drivers’ title, and was not expecting the final showdown to go his way.

“For the past month or so, I’ve been restless and not sleeping well,” said the 24-year-old. “I was nervous. The main thing I was worried about was qualifying.

“Also, I haven’t been strong at starts, so [after qualifying] I was just thinking about how to get through the opening lap without dropping any positions. There’s a video that I watch when I am stressed, and after watching it I thought, ‘It’s better not to think at all!’ 

“I really didn’t think I would become champion. I thought it would be impossible. This time [in qualifying] it was a Honda 1-2-3, and I thought Team Mugen would use team orders. They are such a strong team, and fighting them alone felt almost hopeless. 

“Before the last race, I told the team, ‘We are the only ones who can win the title of the Toyota engine users, we’ve led Toyota’s championship charge, and even though it would be great to win it, if we lose, we shouldn’t think about what went wrong’.

“Instead, I told them, ‘Let’s finish the season with a race that allows us to think we did everything we could.’ All we had to do was our best.”

 

Miyata wants to use success to raise Super Formula’s profile

Miyata’s breakthrough Super Formula title success follows him becoming an official junior driver within Toyota’s World Endurance Championship squad earlier this year, and his first WEC race outing at Fuji in September in a Ferrari GTE Am car.

It’s understood the Japanese driver will combine a Super Formula title defence with a full WEC programme in 2024 as part of the Toyota-backed ASP Lexus LMGT3 outfit.

Miyata made it clear that he hopes to use any future appearances in the WEC and other international categories as a way to boost the profile of Super Formula.

“When I go overseas, people tend to see me just as someone from Japan, and even though I am Super Formula champion, it’s like, ‘who are you?’,” admitted Miyata. “That’s something I want to change. 

“In the past, it was normal for Super Formula champions to get a chance in F1 or WEC, so when you consider that, the current situation is quite frustrating. 

“I’m still not sure what chances I’ll get to race overseas in the future, but in order to prove the level of Japanese drivers and of Super Formula, I want to continue with the mindset that I shouldn’t be underestimated even when I’m up against international drivers.”

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