Suzuka Super Formula: Fukuzumi passes Nojiri to win finale

Nirei Fukuzumi claimed a second career Super Formula victory in the final race of the 2021 season at Suzuka, beating Ryo Hirakawa and champion Tomoki Nojiri to the top spot.

Listen to this article

At the start of the race, Nobuharu Matsushita made a clean getaway from pole position to lead Toshiki Oyu into Turn 1, before building a small buffer up front over the chasing pack.

But Matsushita’s chances of claiming a maiden victory in Super Formula ended when he was handed a drive-through penalty for a jump start, with his car having rolled forward by "less than 5cm".

This promoted Nojiri to the lead, the Mugen driver having charged his way up the field from fifth on the grid with a brilliant run in the opening laps.

The 32-year-old had cleared both the Dandelion cars of Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino at the start to jump to third, before barging past the Nakajima car of Oyu at the first part of the Esses - with Oyu running wide over the gravel after trying to hang around the outside of his rival.

Fukuzumi ran second behind Nojiri at this point and pitted on lap 11, hoping to take advantage of fresh tyres to undercut his Mugen rival.

While Nojiri managed to initially hold on to the net lead after a rapid pitstop the following lap, he lost a chunk of time on cold tyres on his out lap, allowing Fukuzumi to breeze past through at Turn 4 and move to the front for the first time in the race.

With Nojiri dropping as much as five seconds behind before he was able to return to speed, Fukuzumi was able to cruise to the finish and add to his maiden victory at Sugo in June.

Impul’s Hirakawa was also able to take advantage of Nojiri’s slow out lap to slot into second place, having progressed from ninth to third in the opening stint.

It means Impul managed to beat Dandelion to the teams' title, while Fukuzumi moves up to second in the drivers' standings behind Nojiri.

A five-second time penalty for Nojiri for his contact with Oyu did not affect his finishing position.

Hirakawa’s teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi ran deep into the first stint, pitting as late as lap 27 of 30, and held off the second Mugen car of Hiroki Otsu to cap off the season in fourth, although this wasn't enough to keep him second in the championship.

After scoring his first points of the season at Motegi, Kenta Yamashita finished a strong sixth for the Kondo Racing team, just ahead of his teammate Sacha Fenestraz.

Giuliano Alesi, replacing the absent Kazuki Nakajima teammate at TOM’S, picked up an eighth place finish, while Makino was ninth on the road after a slow stop but demoted to 10th in the final classification by a five-second penalty for making contact with Alesi.

Three-time Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto was promoted to ninth by Makino's penalty, having passed his Nakajima teammate Oyu at Turn 1 with just a handful of laps to run in the race.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Gap
1 5 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi Japan Dandelion Racing  
2 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 1.316
3 16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 3.709
4 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 21.642
5 15 Japan Hiroki Otsu Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh 26.499
6 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 32.990
7 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 37.330
8 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 40.216
9 6 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 40.944
10 1 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 42.928
11 64 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 46.800
12 51 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 47.671
13 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 51.499
14 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 54.686
15 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 59.803
16 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1'03.971
17 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima NTT Communications ROOKIE 1'04.697
18 7 Japan Kazuto Kotaka KCMG 1'06.202
19 12 Colombia Tatiana Calderon ThreeBond Drago CORSE 1'18.920

Poleman Matsushita hails B-Max's "superb" step forward

Matsushita takes blame for heartbreaking Suzuka penalty