Sasahara fastest at Suzuka as Alesi makes test debut

Dandelion Racing super-sub Ukyo Sasahara set the pace on the opening day of Super Formula pre-season testing at Suzuka, as Giuliano Alesi was handed his first test outing by TOM'S.

Sasahara fastest at Suzuka as Alesi makes test debut
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Sasahara, filling in for the recovering Tadasuke Makino for this test, set his best time in the dying stages of the two-hour morning session, a 1m36.805s.

That was enough to put him just over a tenth of a second clear of Dandelion teammate Nirei Fukuzumi, albeit some way off the 1m34.533s effort set by reigning champion Naoki Yamamoto in last year's Suzuka round with the help of tyre warmers.

Sasahara's morning time narrowly stood as the quickest of the day after a late flurry of improvements in the afternoon session.

Impul driver Yuhi Sekiguchi came the closest to toppling Sasahara with a 1m36.822s, just 0.017s shy, in turn beating Fukuzumi to the fastest afternoon time by just 0.076s.

Ryo Hirakawa(TEAM IMPUL)

Ryo Hirakawa(TEAM IMPUL)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Ryo Hirakawa in the second of the new-look Impul cars was just under another tenth behind, slotting in fourth on the combined timesheets, ahead of Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing).

Oyu had appeared to be on course to threaten Sasahara's time in the morning, only to be thwarted by a last-minute red flag after Hirakawa went off at Dunlop corner.

Sena Sakaguchi was best of the rookies in sixth for Inging, followed by Nick Cassidy's replacement at TOM'S, Ritomo Miyata.

Tomoki Nojiri (Mugen), Sho Tsuboi (Inging) and Kazuya Oshima (Rookie Racing) completed the top 10, the last-named not improving on his best time from the morning.

Yamamoto had a low-key day for his new team Nakajima Racing, ending up 13th overall on the strength of his best morning time and completing the fewest laps of anyone in the second session (15), losing out on the chance to do a qualifying simulation.

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Alesi, filling in for the absent Kazuki Nakajima at TOM'S, was 15th-fastest and around 1.4 seconds off the pace on his first day at the wheel of a Super Formula car.

The Frenchman had a busy day as he also drove in the Super Formula Lights test session that took place between the two periods of Super Formula running, setting the third-fastest time behind Teppei Natori (B-Max) and his TOM'S stablemate Hibiki Taira.

Alesi had an off at Spoon Curve in the morning around the same time as Nojiri's car came to a stop exiting Degner, causing the first red flag of the day.

SF Lights regular Kazuko Kotaka was 17th-fastest on his first day driving a Super Formula car for KCMG, where he is standing in for Kamui Kobayashi, while Tatiana Calderon propped up the order for Drago Corse, a little under three seconds off the pace.

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Testing continues on Friday with two more two-hour sessions planned.

Suzuka testing times:

Pos. Driver Team/Engine Morning Afternoon
1 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Dandelion/Honda 1m36.805s 1m37.563s
2 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Impul/Toyota 1m37.563s 1m36.822s
3 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi Dandelion/Honda 1m36.925s 1m36.898s
4 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Impul/Toyota 1m37.485s 1m36.984s
5 Japan Toshiki Oyu Nakajima/Honda 1m37.699s 1m37.092s
6 Japan Sena Sakaguchi Inging/Toyota 1m37.615s 1m37.270s
7 Japan Ritomo Miyata TOM'S/Toyota 1m37.832s 1m37.364s
8 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Mugen/Honda 1m38.119s 1m37.614s
9 Japan Sho Tsuboi Inging/Toyota 1m38.242s 1m37.769s
10 Japan Kazuya Oshima Rookie/Toyota 1m37.795s 1m37.943s
11 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo/Toyota 1m38.716s 1m37.822s
12 Japan Hiroki Otsu Mugen/Honda 1m38.172s 1m37.904s
13 Japan Naoki Yamamoto Nakajima/Honda 1m38.126s 1m40.138s
14 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG/Toyota 1m38.301s 1m38.166s
15 France Giuliano Alesi TOM'S/Toyota 1m38.567s 1m38.198s
16 Japan Yuichi Nakayama Kondo/Toyota 1m38.916s 1m38.456s
17 Japan Kazuto Kotaka KCMG/Toyota 1m38.993s 1m38.461s
18 Colombia Tatiana Calderon Drago Corse/Honda 1m39.969s 1m39.784s

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