Nojiri aiming to challenge Yamamoto's Super Formula records

Defending Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri says he is aiming to take a "step closer" to fellow Honda driver Naoki Yamamoto's records in the championship this year.

Nojiri aiming to challenge Yamamoto's Super Formula records
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Mugen driver Nojiri enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in his eighth year in Japan's top single-seater series in 2021, winning three of the seven races to wrap up the title with a round to spare.

But the 32-year-old's achievements still pale in comparison to those of three-time champion Yamamoto, now the championship's most successful active driver by most metrics, as well as the most experienced.

Yamamoto made his debut in what was then known as Formula Nippon in 2010, scoring his first title in 2013 and adding further successes in 2018 and '20.


On the other hand, Nojiri's rookie campaign came in 2014, and all but one of his six race wins have come since he made the switch from Dandelion Racing to Mugen in 2019 - incidentally, in a direct swap with Yamamoto.

“He’s only a year older than me, but he’s always been a target for me,” said Nojiri of Yamamoto in an interview with's Japanese edition. “We only competed in one go-kart race together, the Asia-Pacific championship round at Suzuka [in 2004].

"Yamamoto was with Tony Kart in Europe that year, so he was with that team. I never thought I’d end up driving for the Tony Kart works team [Nojiri would eventually drive for the team in 2007], so I remember thinking, ‘what an amazing guy’ and being happy to race against him.

"Since that time I had always looked up to him, and I had the feeling of wanting to beat him.

"At this stage it wouldn’t be right to say I’m aiming to surpass him. But Yamamoto is definitely a driver who will be remembered in 10, 20, 30 years from now. So I want to get closer to him.

"I have raced since I was five years old, so it’s taken time to get here, but I want to take a step closer to being known as the ‘top’ driver."

Most wins and poles among current Super Formula drivers:

Pos Driver Wins Pos. Driver Poles
1 Naoki Yamamoto 9 1 Naoki Yamamoto 12
=2 Yuhi Sekiguchi
Tomoki Nojiri

2 Tomoki Nojiri 7
3 Yuhi Sekiguchi 5

Yuji Kunimoto

Ryo Hirakawa

Sho Tsuboi

Nirei Fukuzumi

2 4 Ryo Hirakawa 4

Kazuya Oshima

Yuji Kunimoto


Looking ahead to 2022, Nojiri said his other goal besides defending his title is to stave off the advance of the younger generation of drivers, who have made their presence felt in the last couple of seasons.

The 32-year-old is now the fourth-most experienced driver in Super Formula, trailing only Yamamoto, Yuji Kunimoto and Kazuya Oshima.

"If our generation can’t show that we can still get better, perhaps drivers’ careers will get shorter in the future," said Nojiri.

"As a driver, you need to feel looked up to, but if a driver’s career ends at around age 30… that’s usually the age you’re just getting started, right?

"The young drivers are good, and they deserve to be there, but I think there are still some things only I can show."

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