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Super Formula drivers hit out at "dangerous" Sugo conditions

Drivers question why Sunday's race went ahead amid treacherous conditions at Sugo

Super Formula drivers have hit out at the decision to run last weekend’s Sugo race amid constant rain and poor visibility, with several labelling the situation “dangerous”.

The terrible conditions on Sunday led to the third round of the season being started behind the safety car, and two attempts to get the race up and running resulted in crashes for Kazuya Oshima and Sena Sakaguchi, both at the final corner.

Sakaguchi’s impact had left the guardrail damaged, leading the race to be abandoned as there was insufficient time to repair it within the 75-minute time limit.

Naoki Yamamoto had also crashed at the same point of the track during warm-up, with his off also requiring repairs to the guardrail and causing a one-hour delay to the schedule.

The consensus among the drivers was that the conditions were impossible to race in, with some saying the race shouldn’t have been attempted at all.

TGM Grand Prix’s Nobuharu Matsushita told Autosport: “I couldn’t see anything at all. 

“Juju [Noda] was in front of me, but I couldn’t even see her, so I lifted off like crazy at Turn 1 to make sure I could stop in case something happened in front of me.

“We shouldn’t have been racing. The grip of the Yokohama tyre at the rear is really low compared to previous wet races, and it was really dangerous.”

#64 PONOS NAKAJIMA RACING

#64 PONOS NAKAJIMA RACING

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Kakunoshin Ota had a similar opinion, having been another driver to go off at the final corner, albeit avoiding the barriers.

The Dandelion Racing driver told Autosport: “The conditions were not suitable for racing. I think nearly all of us were telling our teams [on the radio] that we cannot race. The organisers should have listened to the drivers.

“At this track, there isn’t enough run-off. Here, you can crash somewhere like the straight or the last corner, hit the barrier and come back onto the track.

“We are all professional drivers here, and even battling at 300km/h, we feel safe because we can trust each other. But this was f***ing dangerous.”

Tomoki Nojiri was declared the winner at Sugo, and described the conditions as “just about ok” to race in with the benefit of being at the head of the field.

But the Team Mugen driver added he felt the interruptions to the schedule and the ultimate abandonment of the race was “inevitable”, saying that drivers had observed that the lack of tyre barriers at the final corner could be an issue.

The two-time champion expressed regret that the spectators were denied the chance to see a full race and urged Super Formula to take steps to avoid a repeat in future.

“I strongly feel this situation could have been avoided,” Nojiri said.

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

“There were a lot of places where there could be a crash and there were no tyre barriers, and repairing the guard rails always takes a long time.

“On Friday during the track walk, we said things like ‘we need a tyre barrier here’ and ‘if a car hits the guardrail here, it will take a long time to fix’, but by then it was already too late, so my impression is that preparations were not good enough.

“I personally want to see improvements and I strongly hope that we can put on a race at Fuji that allows the spectators to go home feeling satisfied.”

Additional reporting by Kenichiro Ebii

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