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Super Formula left with no foreign drivers as Pourchaire is replaced

There will be no foreign drivers on the Super Formula grid for next weekend’s third round of the season at Sugo.

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

It follows Impul’s decision to sign Toyota young driver Hibiki Taira to drive the #19 SF23 that was originally supposed to be campaigned by reigning Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire for the full year.

Pourchaire was the only ‘gaijin’ to be entered for the 2024 Super Formula season, but he left the category after just the opening round at Suzuka when an opportunity opened up at Arrow McLaren in the IndyCar Series. 

Impul initially substituted Pourchaire with factory Lexus driver Ben Barnicoat for Autopolis, ensuring there was still some international presence on the grid in round two.

But Barnicoat was always going to stand-in for Pourchaire for only a single event, as the Super Formula calendar features a number of clashes with his primary campaign in the IMSA SportsCar Championship's GTD Pro class.

Impul has now elected to promote Taira, who finished runner-up in both Super Formula Lights and SUPER GT’s GT300 class last year, meaning the entire field of 21 cars will comprise exclusively of Japanese driver.

The last time there was no international representation on the grid in Japan’s top formula was in 1978, in what was then known as the All-Japan Formula Two Championship.

Hibiki Taira, #2 muta Racing GR86 GT

Hibiki Taira, #2 muta Racing GR86 GT

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

As things stands, Taira is only committed to the Sugo event on 22-23 June, with Impul yet to reveal who will partner Yuji Kunimoto at the Toyota-powered squad in the remaining five races of the year. This keeps open the possibility of international drivers rejoining the grid later in the season.

Impul is yet to score a point in the 2024 Super Formula season, with the team’s best result so far being a 13th place finish achieved by Barnicoat during his one-off appearance in Autopolis.

Yuji Kunimoto, who moved from KCMG to Impul to drive the #20 SF24, retired from the season-opener at Suzuka before taking 19th at Autopolis. 

Pourchaire, meanwhile, had a rough Super Formula debut at the start of the year in 18th place, before his premature departure from the championship. 

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