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Nojiri was determined 'not to make it easy' for Lawson

Tomoki Nojiri says he didn’t want to “make it easy” for Liam Lawson as the Super Formula team-mates duelled for the lead at Motegi and ultimately triggered a multi-car pile-up.

Poleman Nojiri and Lawson, who started third, went side-by-side through the Turn 1 and 2 right-handers on the opening lap of Sunday’s race, with Lawson attempting to go around the outside of his Team Mugen colleague.

But Nojiri edged Lawson out wide and on to the kerb, causing Lawson to lose control and spin into the path of the chasing pack, whereupon he was involved in a multi-car collision with Yuhi Sekiguchi, Tadasuke Makino and Nobuharu Matsushita.

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The race was red-flagged, and Nojiri’s lead went unchallenged when it was finally restarted as he pulled away from nearest pursuer Toshiki Oyu.

With the incident with Lawson being judged as a racing incident, Nojiri went on to clinch his second win of the season with relative ease and revitalise his hopes of a historic third consecutive Super Formula title in the process.

Looking back on the chaotic start to the race, Nojiri said he went into the race determined not to allow team-mate Lawson to pass him without a fight.

“I have the feeling that I went right to the limit,” reflected Nojiri. “I’m sure Liam felt that I should have given him more space, but it was my intention to fight to the limit. I think the fact I didn't pull back is something I can use next time at Suzuka.

“I spoke to Liam after the race and we made peace. We agreed to put it behind us and fight again in the next race. I don’t think there’s any more to say about our relationship. 

“Maybe I put him in a tough position, but I didn’t want to make it easy for him, and not leave any more space than necessary… I think I went right to the limit.

“It’s a shame it turned out like that. Part of me obviously thinks I could have done more to avoid it, but I want to go into the final round with a strong mindset.”

 

Nojiri’s victory put him just 10 points behind championship leader Ritomo Miyata, who finished fourth, with 46 still up for grabs in October’s double-header finale at Suzuka.

The two-time champion said he went into the Motegi race determined to ensure that the battle for the title would not be a two-horse race.

“I think the journalists thought it would be a straight fight [between Miyata and Lawson],” said Nojiri. “When I saw that, it made me feel like, ‘watch this!’

“I think the more drivers that are involved [in the title battle], the more interesting it is. I’m happy I could create that situation, and I want to aim for a third consecutive title.”

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