Nojiri elated after "miraculous" Super Formula season

Two-time Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri has described his title-winning 2022 campaign with Team Mugen as "miraculous" as he concluded a dominant season with a victory on Sunday at Suzuka.

Nojiri elated after "miraculous" Super Formula season
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Nojiri became the series' first back-to-back champion since Tsugio Matsuda in 2008 in Saturday's penultimate round of the season as he finished second behind his Mugen teammate Ukyo Sasahara.

He then rounded off the year in style on Sunday with a dominant win from pole, ending a barren run stretching back to April's opening weekend of the season at Fuji Speedway.

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With six poles and eight poles from 10 races, Nojiri established a level of consistency his rivals could only dream of, with his worst results of the year being a pair of fourth-place finishes, to put himself a commanding 65 points clear of nearest rival Sacha Fenestraz in the final standings.

"The tyres changed a bit this season, and in qualifying for the opening round, I thought, ‘this could end up being a difficult year’," said Nojiri, referring to the fact he qualified sixth for the first race using Yokohama's new-construction rear tyre.

"But the team did an amazing job to recover, we won from pole in Round 2 and this set the tone for the rest of the season. 

"From then on the team never made any mistakes. I don’t think we could have had a better season than the miraculous one we had.

"Winning the championship feels so great that I wish this [the trophy] could be mine forever! I want to experience it as many times as I can."


Reflecting on the second-place finish behind Sasahara in Saturday's opening race that sealed the title, Nojiri admitted that he didn't want to make life too difficult for his teammate when he passed at the hairpin.

Nojiri had led Sasahara in the first stint but it was the latter who pitted first on lap 10 of 31, and after Nojiri's pitstop Sasahara was able to catch up quickly in the first sector before making the race-winning move.

"I pitted one lap later, so I knew there was a risk of being undercut," said Nojiri. "I didn’t want to ruin the tyres by pushing too hard before they were up to temperature, so I didn’t overdo it.

"I didn’t think he would come at me so quickly, but at the same time I didn’t want to get in his way. I thought it was fine simply for the faster driver to win the race."

Nojiri went on to describe his title triumph as a "weight off his shoulders", saying that he felt the pressure of expectation more keenly in 2022 than he did when he won his first title last year.

But, as he pursues the goal of becoming the first man to win three Japan top formula titles in a row since Satoru Nakajima in 1984-86, he admits that he'll feel pressure to do an even better job next year.

"After such an amazing season, these results could become difficult for me next year," Nojiri admitted. "I have to become a version of myself that can surpass even these results.

"That’s what you have to do as a racing driver, and if I can’t I won’t be able to win a third straight title and I won’t have a future as a driver, so I’ll continue giving it everything to fight hard next season."

Additional reporting by Kenichiro Ebii



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