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Super Formula Sugo: Fenestraz strategy pays off for first win

Kondo Racing driver Sacha Fenestraz claimed his first Super Formula race win in unusual circumstances at Sugo in a race that turned on strategy.

Sacha Fenestraz(KONDO RACING)

Sacha Fenestraz(KONDO RACING)

Masahide Kamio

The field was essentially divided into two groups by the second of two safety car periods on lap nine of 53. Most drivers opted to get their mandatory pitstop out of the way during the caution, but a group of seven elected to stay out.

Fenestraz was the leader of the former group, having jumped ahead of poleman Tomoki Nojiri at the start and comfortably held off the reigning champion at the first safety car restart. 

By pitting in, Fenestraz risked losing time in traffic and allowing those that hadn't pitted, led by TOM'S driver Ritomo Miyata, to build up a buffer before making their stops.

Initially it seemed that Miyata was in position to do exactly that, as he gained more than a second lap on Fenestraz once the race resumed on lap 15.

By lap 20, the gap between Miyata and eighth-placed Fenestraz was out to almost 12 seconds, growing to more than 20 seconds by lap 30.

But Fenestraz was able to maintain his pace despite being stuck behind the Team Goh machine of Atsushi Miyake, the last of those that stayed out, and Miyata was unable to keep up his earlier blistering speed as his tyres faded.

The gap between the pair reached 27 seconds before Miyata finally bit the bullet and pitted on lap 46 of what eventually became a timed race running to 49 laps.

That cleared the way for Fenestraz to take the victory by five seconds ahead of Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing), who leapt from fifth to third with a good start and then jumped Nojiri for second place in the pits.

Ritomo Miyata, Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Ritomo Miyata, Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

As well as Fenestraz's first win in Super Formula, it also marked a first for the Kondo Racing squad since the 2019 Okayama race.

Nojiri nonetheless extended his points lead in third, with nearest title rival Ryo Hirakawa only able to salvage seventh place from 16th on the grid.

The Le Mans 24 Hours winner was up to third after the second safety car period, behind Miyata and Tadasuke Makino, dropped out of the points when he made his pitstop and then picked off several slower cars to make his way back up to seventh.

Makino was the top finisher of those that stayed out under the safety car, rejoining in fifth after his stop and then passing Dandelion Racing team-mate Hiroki Otsu late on for fourth.

Miyata arguably stayed out too long as he dropped behind Makino and finished sixth, with Hirakawa and three other drivers that pitted under the safety car, Nirei Fukuzumi (Drago Corse), Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG) and Ukyo Sasahara (Mugen) making up the points scorers.

It leaves Nojiri with an extended 17-point lead at the head of the standings, with Fenestraz now only seven points behind Hirakawa.

Fenestraz's Kondo Racing team-mate Kenta Yamashita was forced to watch from the sidelines after spinning at Turn 1 at the start, ostensibly due to slight contact with the Nakajima Racing machine of Naoki Yamamoto, and getting stuck on the inside of the track.

Nobuharu Matsushita likewise went off due to brake failure at Turn 1 while battling Makino at the first safety car restart, his crash causing the caution that provided the strategic intrigue.

Super Formula Sugo race results (49 laps):

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 1:10'32.529  
2 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 1:10'37.833 5.304
3 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 1:10'39.550 7.021
4 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 1:10'39.675 7.146
5 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 1:10'43.416 10.887
6 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1:10'44.183 11.654
7 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 1:10'47.494 14.965
8 12 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 1:10'50.600 18.071
9 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 1:10'51.691 19.162
10 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 1:10'52.003 19.474
11 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1:10'53.864 21.335
12 64 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 1:10'54.935 22.406
13 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1:10'55.220 22.691
14 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima docomo business ROOKIE 1:10'57.712 25.183
15 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 1:11'00.747 28.218
16 53 Japan Ren Sato Team Goh 1:11'05.483 32.954
17 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 1:11'05.717 33.188
18 55 Japan Atsushi Miyake Team Goh 1:11'07.557 35.028
19 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1:11'13.073 40.544
  50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 15'36.760 42 Laps
  3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing    

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