Super Formula Fuji: Nojiri wins Race 2, Lawson penalised

Tomoki Nojiri scored a convincing victory in the second race of the 2023 Super Formula season at Fuji, as Saturday winner Liam Lawson lost a podium finish to a penalty.

At the start of the race, polesitter Nojiri immediately moved to the right to cover off a fast-charging Toshiki Oyu, who had made a blistering start from third on the grid to pass Ritomo Miyata for second.

While Nojiri managed to initially hold off Oyu, the TGM driver was the quicker of the two and went around the outside of the double champion into Coca-Cola corner to take the lead.

The status quo was maintained when the safety car was called in on lap 8 to recover the stranded TOM’S car of Giuliano Alesi, who had been pitched into a spin by Kakunoshin Ota at the exit of Turn 1.

When the pit window opened at the end of lap 10, the entire field - except a penalised Ryo Hirakawa - stopped for their mandatory tyre change, turning the race into a battle of the pit mechanics.

This is where Nojiri regained lost ground, as the TGM mechanics had to wait for him to pass before releasing Oyu into the fast lane.

Oyu tried hard to retake the lead when the race resumed on lap 13, but the 24-year-old ended up locking up into Turn 1 and allowed Nojiri to hold his position at the front.

From there on, the double champion faced no issues out front, clinching his ninth career Super Formula victory by 1.6 seconds and moving into the lead of the drivers' standings as a result.

Meanwhile, Oyu struggled for performance in the second stint and had to come into the pits for a second time with what appeared to be a slow puncture, slipping to 20th and last among the finishers.

Oyu’s first-to-last slump promoted Sho Tsuboi to second, the Inging driver returning to the podium for the first time since last year’s second race at Fuji.

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Saturday winner Lawson finished third on the road ahead of Kenta Yamashita and Miyata, but a five-second time penalty for not respecting the safety car procedure dropped him to fifth place.

This appeared to be due to Lawson holding up the cars behind in order to give his Mugen mechanics time to service both he and Nojiri without losing time, with Inging's Sena Sakaguchi being punished for a similar offence.

Lawson's penalty promoted Kondo Racing’s Yamashita to the final spot on the podium, his first top-three result in Super Formula since the Motegi season opener in 2020.

Kamui Kobayashi also enjoyed a strong result for KCMG in sixth behind the penalised Lawson, while Nirei Fukuzumi secured the best-ever finish for the refreshed ThreeBond (formerly Drago Corse) team in seventh.

Sakaguchi was eighth on the road but slipped to 10th with his penalty behind Tadasuke Makino (Dandelion) and Ren Sato (Nakajima).

Hirakawa endured a heartbreaking race, with a loose wheel ending his race with two laps to go.

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The Impul ace had already been hit with a 10-second time penalty for a start procedure infringement, which he served on lap 7.

In a bid to try something different from the competition, he stayed out on track when the remainder of the field pitted under the safety car at the end of lap 10, which put him in the lead before his stop.

A points finish was looking unlikely however even before the issue that put him out of the race.

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 41 1:03'04.489  
2 Japan Sho Tsuboi JMS 41 1:03'06.132 1.643
3 New Zealand Liam Lawson Team Mugen 41 1:03'06.415 1.926
4 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 41 1:03'07.592 3.103
5 Japan Ritomo Miyata Vantelin Team TOM'S 41 1:03'08.182 3.693
6 Japan Kamui Kobayashi Team KCMG 41 1:03'13.664 9.175
7 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond Racing 41 1:03'19.875 15.386
8 Japan Sena Sakaguchi JMS 41 1:03'21.643 17.154
9 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 41 1:03'24.578 20.089
10 Japan Ren Sato TCS Nakajima Racing 41 1:03'24.725 20.236
11 Japan Kazuya Oshima docomo business ROOKIE 41 1:03'27.896 23.407
12 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 41 1:03'31.526 27.037
13 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 41 1:03'32.353 27.864
14 Japan Kazuto Kotaka Kondo Racing 41 1:03'35.213 30.724
15 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 41 1:03'39.231 34.742
16 Japan Yuji Kunimoto Team KCMG 41 1:03'39.846 35.357
17 Turkey Cem Bolukbasi TGM Grand Prix 41 1:03'39.903 35.414
18 South Africa Raoul Hyman B-Max Racing Team 41 1:03'55.198 50.709
19 Kakunoshin Ota Japan Dandelion Racing 41 1:03'58.464 53.975
20 Japan Toshiki Oyu TGM Grand Prix 41 1:04'01.051 56.562
  Japan Ryo Hirakawa ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 39 1:00'09.089 2 Laps
  France Giuliano Alesi Vantelin Team TOM'S 7 10'13.484 34 Laps

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