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Super Formula Suzuka II

Nojiri takes heart from Alonso after Super Formula title defeat

Tomoki Nojiri says he is taking heart from Fernando Alonso’s late-career renaissance in Formula 1 after his bid for a third consecutive Super Formula title fell short at Suzuka.

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Team Mugen driver Nojiri went into the final double-header of the season 10 points behind series leader Ritomo Miyata aiming to become Japanese top formula racing’s first driver to win three consecutive titles since Satoru Nakajima in 1984-86.

The weekend started with victory in a shortened opening race, allowing Nojiri to close in to within 6.5 points, but fourth in the finale left him 8.5 points down on TOM’S rival Ritomo Miyata in the end, with team-mate Liam Lawson finishing half a point ahead in second overall.

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Asked what his goal would be after missing out on a chance to match Nakajima’s three consecutive titles, Nojiri spoke of wanting to “take on new challenges”, highlighting Alonso’s performances in F1 at the age of 42 as a source of inspiration.

“Liam came to Super Formula, and he also raced in F1, and it’s the same for Miyata and [Ryo] Hirakawa [in the World Endurance Championship],” said Nojiri.

“Frankly, I don’t think I’m so different to them, so it would be nice to get chances to race outside of Japan as well. 

“These days, it feels like drivers don’t get given chances unless they are young, so if there’s an opportunity to buck that trend even a little, I’d like to give it my all. 

“Even Alonso, you know… I’m 34 years old and I’m in the best shape of my career, so I think I still have a long way to go from here.”

 

Nojiri rounded off his campaign in the second Suzuka race with a fourth-place finish, his second-worst result excluding DNFs, as he was passed off the line by Miyata and was never in a position to challenge for a podium thereafter.

Looking back on what he called an “up and down” season, the outgoing champion highlighted his crash with Toshiki Oyu in the April Suzuka race and his absence from the following round in Autopolis as major blows to his title defence.

“If I had finished ahead of Miyata, the series ranking would have looked different [with Nojiri ahead of Lawson], which made me realise that overall results can turn on these small things, and that too many of these small things piled up for me over the season,” said Nojiri.

“When you are fighting for the title, you always look back and think, ‘if that hadn’t happened…’, which is painful. Looking back now, the crash with Oyu at Suzuka in Round 3 was really damaging. 

“But despite my illness, I was able to come back strongly and fight for the championship, which I think is thanks to everyone that supported me.

“Honestly, I thought it would be difficult to win the title this year, but I was supported by so many people, and I think I feel even more grateful now than when I won the title.”

 

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