Red Bull protege Pierre Gasly claimed an unlikely maiden Super Formula win at Motegi after chief rival Kamui Kobayashi lost a significant amount of time in a botched pit stop.
Kobayashi sprinted to the lead at the start of the race, with Tomoki Nojiri demoting polesitter Kenta Yamashita to the third spot. Meanwhile, Gasly stood firm in fourth.
The pitstop window opened on lap 10, with Yamashita the first of the runners to dive in for fresh tyres. Half of the field followed suit, while several frontrunners, including Kobayashi and Gasly, stayed out.
When the Frenchman finally pitted on lap 27, he was able to jump both Yamashita and Nojiri to move up to second place.
Kobayashi pitted seven laps later with a healthy advantage in hand, but a problem in changing the right-rear tyre cost him nearly half-a-minute and the lead of the race.
The Japanese driver rejoined the track 15 seconds behind Gasly, who went on to take his maiden Super Formula victory.
It was also Honda’s first SF win since Stoffel Vandoorne’s triumph at last year’s season finale in Suzuka.
Felix Rosenqvist, who was also one of the late stoppers, crossed the finishing line in third place to score back-to-back podiums.
The Swede managed to fend of championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura, who charged through the field after switching to the soft tyres right towards the end of the race
Former European F3 race winner Nick Cassidy and Yamashita came home fifth and sixth, while Porsche WEC ace Andre Lotterer recovered from a drive through penalty to finish seventh.
The German was involved in an incident with Takuya Izawa in which the Dandelion Racing driver was forced to retire with suspension damage.
Nojiri claimed the final championship point in eighth, while Koudai Tsukakoshi and Kazuya Oshima completed the top 10.
|3||Felix Rosenqvist||Team LeMans/Toyota||19.507|
|9||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Real Racing/Honda||49.690|
|10||Kazuya Oshima||Team LeMans/Toyota||57.342|
|17||Takashi Kogure||B-Max Racing/Honda||1'34.662|