Fuji Super Formula: Nojiri denies Hirakawa double win

Reigning Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri opened his victory account for the 2022 season with a lights-to-flag win in Sunday's second race at Fuji Speedway.

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Mugen driver Nojiri came out top in a tense late duel with Saturday race winner Ryo Hirakawa (Impul) to take the chequered flag by a margin of 1.6 seconds for his seventh career win, giving himself the championship lead by two points over Hirakawa.

Ritomo Miyata scored his first podium for TOM'S in third place, less than a second behind Hirakawa.

While Nojiri made a clean getaway from pole to maintain the lead early on ahead of fellow front-row starter Miyata, his Mugen teammate and third-place starter Ukyo Sasahara was left stranded on the grid for the second time in two days. 

An early safety car period was called when Nobuharu Matsushita pitched Tadasuke Makino into a spin at Turn 10 on the opening lap, an incident that put Dandelion driver Makino out of the race.

Nojiri maintained the advantage over Miyata when the race resumed on lap 5 of 41, with Kenta Yamashita running third ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, Sacha Fenestraz and Hirakawa.

Fenestraz dropped to the rear of the pack with a spin, briefly promoting Hirakawa to fifth before he lost a spot to star Team Goh rookie Atsushi Miyake.

Kobayashi was first of the frontrunners to pit when the window opened on lap 10, with Hirakawa settling into fourth place after he had succeeded in repassing and dropping Miyake.

Yamashita was next in the pits of the lead group on lap 19, followed by Miyake on lap 20, giving Hirakawa some crucial time in clear air before he made his stop on lap 22.

That allowed the Impul driver to undercut Miyata, who brought his TOM'S car in the pits on lap 24, with Nojiri following suit one lap later.

However, there was nothing Hirakawa could do about Nojiri in the closing stages, with the gap between the lead pair remaining mostly static at around 1.5s, and Miyata staying close to Hirakawa but never enough so to attempt an overtake - with the top three finishing in that order.

Yamashita brought home his Kondo Racing car in fourth ahead of Miyake, while Yuhi Sekiguchi made a late-stopping strategy to work to finish sixth in the second Impul machine, up 10 places from his grid position.

Hiroki Otsu (Dandelion) and Giuliano Alesi (TOM'S) were seventh and eighth, having both been among the early stoppers, while Kobayashi (KCMG) spent the latter half of the race engaged in a pulsating duel with a recovering Sasahara, finally hanging on for ninth ahead of the Mugen driver.

As in the first race, Red Bull junior Ren Sato (Goh) made a poor getaway from fourth on the grid, dropping to the lower reaches of the top 10.

He finally finished 12th after a slow early pitstop and being passed late on by both Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing) and Sho Tsuboi (Inging).

Fuji Super Formula - Race 2 results:

Cla # Driver Team Laps Gap
1 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 41  
2 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 41 1.659
3 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 41 2.494
4 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 41 15.042
5 55 Atsushi Miyake Team Goh 41 15.839
6 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 41 18.206
7 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 41 31.087
8 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 41 35.048
9 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 41 35.940
10 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 41 36.338
11 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 41 37.914
12 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 41 39.702
13 53 Ren Sato Team Goh 41 40.658
14 64 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 41 41.518
15 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 41 43.342
16 12 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 41 51.471
17 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 41 52.643
18 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima docomo business ROOKIE 41 58.096
19 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 41 1'19.086
20 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 40 1 Lap
21 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 0  

Fuji Super Formula: Nojiri grabs pole for second race

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