Suzuka Super Formula: Fukuzumi passes Nojiri to win finale
Nirei Fukuzumi claimed a second career Super Formula victory in the final race of the 2021 season at Suzuka, beating Ryo Hirakawa and champion Tomoki Nojiri to the top spot.
At the start of the race, Nobuharu Matsushita made a clean getaway from pole position to lead Toshiki Oyu into Turn 1, before building a small buffer up front over the chasing pack.
But Matsushita’s chances of claiming a maiden victory in Super Formula ended when he was handed a drive-through penalty for a jump start, with his car having rolled forward by "less than 5cm".
This promoted Nojiri to the lead, the Mugen driver having charged his way up the field from fifth on the grid with a brilliant run in the opening laps.
The 32-year-old had cleared both the Dandelion cars of Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino at the start to jump to third, before barging past the Nakajima car of Oyu at the first part of the Esses - with Oyu running wide over the gravel after trying to hang around the outside of his rival.
Fukuzumi ran second behind Nojiri at this point and pitted on lap 11, hoping to take advantage of fresh tyres to undercut his Mugen rival.
While Nojiri managed to initially hold on to the net lead after a rapid pitstop the following lap, he lost a chunk of time on cold tyres on his out lap, allowing Fukuzumi to breeze past through at Turn 4 and move to the front for the first time in the race.
With Nojiri dropping as much as five seconds behind before he was able to return to speed, Fukuzumi was able to cruise to the finish and add to his maiden victory at Sugo in June.
Impul’s Hirakawa was also able to take advantage of Nojiri’s slow out lap to slot into second place, having progressed from ninth to third in the opening stint.
It means Impul managed to beat Dandelion to the teams' title, while Fukuzumi moves up to second in the drivers' standings behind Nojiri.
Hirakawa’s teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi ran deep into the first stint, pitting as late as lap 27 of 30, and held off the second Mugen car of Hiroki Otsu to cap off the season in fourth, although this wasn't enough to keep him second in the championship.
After scoring his first points of the season at Motegi, Kenta Yamashita finished a strong sixth for the Kondo Racing team, just ahead of his teammate Sacha Fenestraz.
Giuliano Alesi, replacing the absent Kazuki Nakajima teammate at TOM’S, picked up an eighth place finish, while Makino was ninth on the road after a slow stop but demoted to 10th in the final classification by a five-second penalty for making contact with Alesi.
Three-time Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto was promoted to ninth by Makino's penalty, having passed his Nakajima teammate Oyu at Turn 1 with just a handful of laps to run in the race.
|1||5||Nirei Fukuzumi||Dandelion Racing|
|2||20||Ryo Hirakawa||Team Impul||1.316|
|3||16||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||3.709|
|4||19||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul||21.642|
|5||15||Hiroki Otsu||Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh||26.499|
|6||3||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||32.990|
|7||4||Sacha Fenestraz||Kondo Racing||37.330|
|8||36||Giuliano Alesi||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||40.216|
|9||6||Tadasuke Makino||Dandelion Racing||40.944|
|10||1||Naoki Yamamoto||TCS Nakajima Racing||42.928|
|11||64||Toshiki Oyu||TCS Nakajima Racing||46.800|
|12||51||Nobuharu Matsushita||B-Max Racing Team||47.671|
|14||37||Ritomo Miyata||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||54.686|
|17||14||Kazuya Oshima||NTT Communications ROOKIE||1'04.697|
|19||12||Tatiana Calderon||ThreeBond Drago CORSE||1'18.920|
|View full results|
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