Suzuka Super Formula: Yamamoto dominates, Vandoorne takes debut podium
Naoki Yamamoto cruised to a lights-to-flag win at the Super Formula season opener at Suzuka, as McLaren protege Stoffel Vandoorne took third place on his series debut.
At the start, Yamamoto led from the front, establishing a three second gap in the opening laps to protect himself from any chance of an early attack.
Behind, Yuji Kunimoto held on to second position, with Vandoorne jumping Yuhi Sekiguchi to move up to third.
Sekiguchi, having started third, eventually, finished 14th after he was given a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race.
The status quo at the sharp end of the pack remained the same, despite Kunimoto’s attempt to overhaul his rivals by pitting a lap later.
The trio were eventually separated by 13 seconds at the chequered flag, with Team Mugen's Yamamoto taking the top honours and Vandoorne securing a podium finish on his debut.
Behind the lead pack, Takashi Kogure finished in fourth place, with Koudai Tsukakoshi finishing a further seven seconds adrift in fifth position.
Former F1 test driver James Rossiter overtook Andre Lotterer in the latter stages of the race to take sixth, the duo having made up ground early on after starting in the lower reaches of top 10.
The other Belgian in the field, Bertrand Baguette, took the final point after a fierce battle with Japanese Tomoki Nojiri towards the end of the race.
While the race was largely straightforward, Team Le Mans had an eventful outing at Suzuka. Ex-F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi’s loosely-fitted right rear tyre came out of position, necessitating an early pitstop and demoting him to the back of the pack.
Teammate Narain Karthikeyan endured far worse fortunes, retiring a lap after his pitstop.
Toyota WEC star Kazuki Nakajima also had a tough race, starting from 14th and managing only 12th, just behind last year's champion Hiroaki Ishiura.
|1||Naoki Yamamoto||Team Mugen||1hr13m519s|
|3||Stoffel Vandoorne||Dandelion Racing||13.194|
|4||Takashi Kogure||Drago Corse||16.758|
|5||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Real Racing||23.270|
|7||Andre Lotterer||Team TOM’S||30.052|
|8||Bertrand Baguette||Nakajima Racing||31.040|
|9||Tomoki Nojiri||Dandelion Racing||37.410|
|10||J.P.de Oliveira||Team Impul||37.971|
|12||Kazuki Nakajima||Team TOM’S||45.132|
|14||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul||1'10.595|
|16||Kamui Kobayashi||Team Le Mans||2Laps|
|DNF||Takuya Izawa||Real Racing||6Laps|
|DNF||Daisuke Nakajima||Nakaijima Racing||8Laps|
|DNF||Narain Karthikeyan||Team Le Mans||20Laps|
Suzuka Super Formula: Yamamoto takes season's first pole, Vandoorne fourth
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