Race report

Super Formula Autopolis: Hirakawa charges to victory from eighth

Impul Toyota driver Ryo Hirakawa charged from eighth on the grid to score his second victory of the 2022 Super Formula season at Autopolis, slashing his points deficit to Tomoki Nojiri.

Hirakawa made a brilliant launch from the fourth row on the opening lap to slot himself in third behind polesitter Nojiri and Tadasuke Makino, aided by Ritomo Miyata making a poor getaway from second and nudging a fast-starting Ukyo Sasahara over the grass on the run down to Turn 1.

The safety car was deployed immediately afterwards to recover the stricken Nakajima Honda of Toshiki Oyu, who crashed into the barriers at the exit of Turn 3 in a desperate attempt to move up the pack after an engine change left him last on the grid.

When the safety car retreated into the pits at the end of lap three, Nojiri was able to pull away from the rest of the field but Makino was struggling to hold on to second position.

At the start of lap five, Makino covered the inside line into Turn 1, but Hirakawa was able to pull off a brilliant move around the outside of the Dandelion Honda driver to snatch second position.

Before Hirakawa could set about chasing Nojiri for the lead, the safety car returned as Kamui Kobayashi's KCMG Toyota was left stranded on track at the exit of Turn 3 following a collision with Sho Tsuboi.

The race didn’t resume until the start of lap 10, with Nojiri leading the way from Hirakawa as a struggling Makino pitted at the end of that lap to fit a fresh set of tyres.

Nojiri was the next of the frontrunners to pit on lap 16, with Hirakawa staying out in a bid to overcut his chief title rival.

This was where the race shifted in Hirakawa’s favour, with the Toyota Hypercar driver setting a series of fastest laps as Nojiri struggled for performance even with fresh tyres on his Mugen Honda.

When Hirakawa finally dived into the pits at the end of lap 20, he was able to emerge from the pits comfortably in the net lead, even as his stop was fractionally slower at 8.5s.

With Nojiri having no pace to mount a fightback, Hirakawa was able to cruise to the chequered flag, scoring his fourth career victory with a comfortable margin of 2.3s.

So poor was Nojiri’s pace in the second stint that he was overcut by both Kondo Racing’s Sacha Fenestraz and Team Goh rookie Atsushi Miyake, dropping outside the podium positions in fourth.

Both Fenestraz and Miyake were able to nurse their tyres for a long first stint and pit in the final 15 laps, with the latter making the most of the strategy to score his and Goh’s first podium in only their fourth start in the series.

Nojiri’s result has left him with a reduced lead of seven points over Hirakawa, as the two again cemented their position as chief title contenders.

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

TOM'S driver Miyata was able to get a jump on Makino in the pits and kept the pressure up on a struggling Nojiri in the second stint, but was unable to make a move and had to settle for fifth.

Makino ended up sixth ahead of the second Mugen car of Sasahara, who likewise stopped on lap 10.

Completing the top 10 were Inging's Sena Sakaguchi, the Dandelion car of Hiroki Otsu and Suzuka race winner Nobuharu Matsushita, who was able to haul his B-Max machine to the final points-paying position from 19th on the grid.

Watch all Super Formula races live on Motorsport.tv (available worldwide except Japan). Click here for more information.

Super Formula Autopolis - Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Gap
1 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul  
2 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 2.310
3 55 Japan Atsushi Miyake Team Goh 12.508
4 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 21.821
5 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 22.391
6 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 32.569
7 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 33.571
8 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 34.647
9 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 35.577
10 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 36.410
11 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 39.718
12 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 46.360
13 12 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 53.946
14 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 58.931
15 64 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 1 Lap
16 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima docomo business ROOKIE 1 Lap
17 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 1 Lap
18 53 Japan Ren Sato Team Goh 2 Laps
19 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 6 Laps
20 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 38 Laps
21 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing  
Previous article Super Formula Autopolis: Nojiri scores third pole in a row
Next article Super Formula Sugo: Fenestraz strategy pays off for first win