Sugo Super Formula: Hirakawa fastest in disrupted practice

Super Formula championship leader Ryo Hirakawa topped Friday practice at a damp Sugo ahead of Kamui Kobayashi.

Sugo Super Formula: Hirakawa fastest in disrupted practice
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Impul Toyota man Hirakawa set the day's best time of 1m04.745s in the closing stages of the afternoon session, in which a dry line emerged on the track after rain during the morning.

The winner of the last two races at Sugo, Naoki Yamamoto had been fastest for much of the afternoon despite being responsible the first of three red flags when his Dandelion Racing car's on-board camera cover fell off and required retrieving from the track.

Yamamoto posted a time of 1m05.552s after returning to the track with a fresh camera cover fitted, which stood as the benchmark until the closing stages of the one-hour session.

KCMG driver Yuji Kunimoto crashed at SP corner to bring out the red flags a second time, and when running resumed with 15 minutes left on the clock his teammate Kobayashi was among those to improve their times, going fastest on a 1m04.852s.

Moments later Hirakawa managed to go even faster to end the session 0.107s in the clear of Toyota LMP1 ace Kobayashi, who missed the previous race at Okayama.

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Reigning champion Nick Cassidy was third-fastest for TOM'S ahead of Yuhi Sekiguchi (Impul), while Yamamoto's earlier time was enough for fifth, best of the Honda runners.

Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing) was next up ahead of Okayama race winner Sho Tsuboi (Inging), while Sacha Fenestraz (Kondo Racing), Kazuki Nakajima (TOM'S) and Kenta Yamashita (Kondo) - the latter two also having sat out Okayama - completing the top 10.

Sergio Sette Camara had a turbulent return to Super Formula action driving B-Max Racing's sole entry, causing a red flag with an off at Turn 3 early in the morning session.

The Brazilian debutant was 17th in the morning before improving to 13th in the afternoon, albeit causing another red flag with five minutes left after a spin at Turn 4, an incident that brought the day's running to a premature end.

Standing in for Tatiana Calderon at Drago Corse once again, Koudai Tsukakoshi was 14th fastest, while Ukyo Sasahara was 17th for Team Mugen ahead of what appears set to be his final race outing deputising for Red Bull junior Juri Vips.

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Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion), fastest in the full wet conditions in the morning ahead of Fenestraz and Hirakawa, was only 18th-fastest in the afternoon, only ahead of Kunimoto.

Nirei Fukuzumi, Dandelion Racing

Nirei Fukuzumi, Dandelion Racing

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Qualifying groups determined

As per the first two races of the season, the drivers will be split between two groups in Q1 on Sunday morning, with nine drivers in Group A and 10 in Group B collectively fighting over 14 spots in Q2. The seven fastest drivers in each group will progress.

Group A: Yuhi Sekiguchi, Sho Tsuboi, Sacha Fenestraz, Nick Cassidy, Naoki Yamamoto, Tomoki Nojiri, Kamui Kobayashi, Tadasuke Makino, Koudai Tsukakoshi.

Group B: Ryo Hirakawa, Hiroaki Ishiura, Kenta Yamashita, Kazuki Nakajima, Nirei Fukuzumi, Ukyo Sasahara, Yuji Kunimoto, Toshiki Oyu, Kazuya Oshima, Sergio Sette Camara.

FP2 results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1'04.745  
2 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi carrozzeria Team KCMG 1'04.852 0.107
3 1 New Zealand Nick Cassidy Vantelin Team TOM'S 1'05.140 0.395
4 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1'05.340 0.595
5 5 Japan Naoki Yamamoto DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'05.552 0.807
6 64 Japan Tadasuke Makino TCS Nakajima Racing 1'05.785 1.040
7 39 Japan Sho Tsuboi JMS 1'05.966 1.221
8 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 1'05.971 1.226
9 36 Japan Kazuki Nakajima Vantelin Team TOM'S 1'05.987 1.242
10 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 1'06.019 1.274
11 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 1'06.073 1.328
12 38 Japan Hiroaki Ishiura JMS 1'06.212 1.467
13 50 Brazil Sergio Sette Camara Buzz Racing with B-Max 1'06.396 1.651
14 12 Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 1'06.752 2.007
15 16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 1'07.244 2.499
16 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima ROOKIE Racing 1'08.017 3.272
17 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 1'09.012 4.267
18 6 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'09.084 4.339
19 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto carrozzeria Team KCMG 1'27.831 23.086

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