Sasahara credits fan support for last-minute Mugen deal

Ukyo Sasahara has cited the support he received from fans as a major factor in securing a last-minute deal to race in Super Formula this year with Team Mugen.

Ukyo Sasahara, TEAM MUGEN

Just days before the start of pre-season testing, Mugen announced on Friday that will continue to run two cars in Japan’s top single-seater category after all, with Sasahara getting the nod to join defending champion Tomoki Nojiri in the team’s line-up.

Initially Sasahara had looked set to be left on the sidelines, missing out on a spot on Honda’s roster when the marque made its initial Super Formula announcement in January, and then being passed over for the second berth at new-for-2022 outfit Team Goh.

But a late deal for Mugen to lease a car from B-Max Racing, which was unable to fill its second entry with a paying driver, opened the door for Sasahara to stay on the grid.

“This was not something I could have managed alone, and the fact the fans voiced their support for me was a major trigger,” Sasahara told’s Japanese edition. “I’m really happy and grateful.

“It’s unusual for a team to make this kind of last-minute entry, and the timing from when the decision was made until Fan Thanks Day was tight.

“But thanks to the passion and support of everyone in the team, I was able to start running [from Saturday]. We treated it like a shakedown, we mainly just confirmed there were no issues with the car and the set-up.

“From tomorrow the tyres we will use are different, so we can’t really use it as a reference, but it’s been fun. I’m really grateful.”

Ukyo Sasahara, TEAM MUGEN

Ukyo Sasahara, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Up to now, Sasahara has only competed in Super Formula as a substitute driver, firstly at Mugen in place of absent Red Bull junior driver Juri Vips in 2020 and then in last year’s pre-season tests and the first two races at Dandelion Racing, standing in for Tadasuke Makino.

While his 2020 season was a struggle, he turned heads at Dandelion, scoring a podium in what proved to be his final outing for the team last year at Suzuka.

“I’ve never gone into a season knowing I’ll be able to participate for the whole year, as up to now I’ve always been a substitute,” added Sasahara.

“We have a lot of things to do in SUPER GT, and Super Formula was decided at the last minute, so things are a little all over the place, but I think it was good to be able to run during Fan Thanks Day. Starting from the joint test would have been difficult.”

While expressing a desire to fight for the championship, Sasahara admitted that his first objectives will be to “settle in” and learn as much as he can from teammate Nojiri.

“I think whatever I can learn from the reigning champion is a bonus for me, and I want to combine that with my own experience,” said the 25-year-old.

“Of course I want to win, I want to be on pole and aim for the championship, but I don’t want to rush or skip any steps. I have plenty of chances, so I want to stay balanced.”


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