Sasahara attending Super Formula races as Honda reserve
Ukyo Sasahara is acting as Honda’s on-site reserve driver for the remainder of the current Super Formula season, starting this weekend at Sugo.
Sasahara lost his drive at Team Mugen at the end of the 2020 season, but was given a temporary reprieve at the start of the current campaign as he was called up to replace a still-recovering Tadasuke Makino at Dandelion Racing.
He contested the first two rounds of the year at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka, scoring a podium at the latter, and he remains fourth in the drivers’ standings.
Sasahara was back on the sidelines for last month’s Autopolis race as Makino made his return to action, but the 25-year-old is on-site this weekend at Sugo after making a request to Honda about continuing to accompany the manufacturer to races.
“The discussion about reserve status started after it was decided that I couldn't race in Super Formula [as a full-time driver] at the beginning of this year,” Sasahara said in an interview with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition.
“I want to learn more as an individual, regardless of what the other drivers are doing, so I asked if I could come along, and Honda and Dandelion both agreed, so here I am.
“According to the regulations, if the regular driver runs in free practice on Saturday, he can't be replaced. However, I don't have much hope for that in the first place, and I don't think it's right to expect it.
“I just have to be ready to drive whenever the call comes. But when I see the cars running, somehow I really want to drive again!”
Honda has not been affected as Toyota by absent drivers in 2021, with only Drago Corse driver Tatiana Calderon and B-Max Racing's Yves Baltas absent following the return of Makino at Autopolis.
SUPER GT regular Koudai Tsukakoshi has been filling in for Calderon, who is one of several drivers unable to be at Sugo because of Japan’s strict 14-day quarantine rule, while B-Max has elected not to replace Baltas.
Toyota meanwhile has no fewer than four replacement drivers in action at Sugo, with Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG), Kazuki Nakajima (TOM’S), Hirakawa (Impul) and Sacha Fenestraz (Kondo Racing) all out of action.
Taking those respective seats are Kazuko Kotaka, surprise Autopolis winner Giuliano Alesi, Mitsunori Takaboshi and Yuichi Nakayama.
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