Okayama Super Formula: Hirakawa on pole, title rivals struggle
Impul driver Ryo Hirakawa claimed his second career Super Formula pole at Okayama, as the series’ championship protagonists struggled in qualifying.
Fresh off his maiden win at Motegi, Hirakawa clocked the former Formula 1 venue in 1m12.700s to pip Kenta Yamashita by 0.080s in a tightly-contested session.
It was Nirei Fukuzumi who set the initial benchmark, the Dandelion driver breaking the 1m13s barrier to set the tone for the rest of the session.
Alex Palou and Hiroaki Ishiura were next to cross the line but neither could better Fukuzumi, and it wasn’t until Kenta Yamashita completed his final flyer that the ex-Formula 2 racer was deposed from the top of the timesheets.
Hirakawa was the last to cross the finish line and managed to go even quicker, scoring his first series pole since Autopolis last year.
Yamashita settled for second, while his Kondo teammate Yuji Kunimoto was classified another tenth adrift in third.
TOM’S driver Kazuki Nakajima equalled his best qualifying result of the season in fourth, just 0.004s off Kunimoto’s pace, while the top five was completed by the aforementioned Fukuzumi.
Two-time champion Ishiura was sixth quickest in the lead Inging car, ahead of the Nakajima Racing pair of Tadasuke Makino and Alex Palou.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi failed to progress to Q3 for only the second time this season, and will start ninth on the grid.
Championship leader Nick Cassidy (TOM’S) set the quickest time in his Q1 group, but was impeded by teammate Nakajima on his final Q2 flyer.
He will line-up 10th on the grid, six places ahead of chief title rival Naoki Yamamoto (Dandelion), who was eliminated in Q1 for the second time this season.
Red Bull junior Patricio O’Ward made his first Q2 appearance since replacing Dan Ticktum at Mugen, and will start his third Super Formula race from 11th.
|1||Ryo Hirakawa||Team Impul||1'12.70|
|2||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||1'12.780||0.080|
|3||Yuji Kunimoto||Kondo Racing||1'12.880||0.180|
|4||Kazuki Nakajima||Vantelin Team TOM'S||1'12.884||0.184|
|5||Nirei Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1'12.890||0.190|
|6||Hiroaki Ishiura||JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING||1'12.969||0.269|
|7||Tadasuke Makino||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'13.004||0.304|
|8||Alex Palou||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'13.382||0.682|
|View full results|
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