Race report

Super Formula Suzuka: Nojiri seals title, Sasahara wins race

Tomoki Nojiri clinched the 2022 Super Formula title with a race to spare after finishing second to Mugen team-mate Ukyo Sasahara at Suzuka.

Having scored three bonus points for pole position in qualifying earlier on Saturday, Nojiri only needed a top-three result to become Super Formula's first back-to-back champion since Tsugio Matsuda in 2008.

But the 33-year-old wrapped up the championship in style with a strong run to second, as his chief championship rivals Sacha Fenestraz and Ryo Hirakawa could manage no better than 16th and ninth respectively.

His result, combined with a second victory of the season for Sasahara, also helped Mugen clinch the teams' title with Sunday's finale still to run.

Story of the race

Nojiri led the way from pole initially ahead of Toshiki Oyu and Sasahara, as Ritomo Miyata slipped to fourth with a comparatively poor start from second on the grid.

But the man on the move was Sasahara, who dispatched the Nakajima Racing machine of Oyu for second place at the start of lap four at Turn 1 before piling the pressure on his team-mate Nojiri.

When the pitlane window opened on lap 10, Sasahara was first to head in for a fresh set of Yokohama tyres, with Nojiri responding next time round.

Nojiri initially emerged ahead but on colder tyres he was rapidly reeled in by Sasahara through the first sector, and didn't get in the way of his team-mate when he launched an attack heading into the hairpin.

Once in the lead, Sasahara was never threatened again, building an advantage of 12 seconds en route to his second win of the season and of his career.

After both the Mugen cars stopped, TOM'S driver Miyata assumed the lead of the race and looked in a strong position to challenge for the final spot on the podium before he pitted on lap 25.

But a slow stop for Miyata left him down the order, opening the door for Red Bull junior Ren Sato to grab his first podium of his rookie season.

Leaving his pitstop until lap 19, Sato was able to pick off Tadasuke Makino, Yuhi Sekiguchi and finally Oyu to take third and boost his chances of keeping a place on Honda's roster in 2023.

Oyu had to be content with fourth place, while Miyata fought his way back ahead of Impul driver Sekiguchi to finish fifth.

Makino was seventh in the best of the Dandelion cars, while the remaining points went to Sho Tsuboi (Inging), Hirakawa (Impul) - unable to make serious progress from 11th despite leaving his pitstop until lap 27 - and Sena Sakaguchi (Inging).

Like Hirakawa, Kondo Racing's Fenestraz failed to make progress at the start and endured a miserable race that yielded a lowly 16th place.

As a result, Hirakawa and Fenestraz go into Sunday's finale level on points in the battle for second in the drivers' standings.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Gap
1 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen  
2 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 12.589
3 53 Japan Ren Sato Team Goh 14.212
4 65 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 19.638
5 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 19.995
6 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 21.206
7 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 23.151
8 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 25.941
9 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 26.423
10 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 27.631
11 64 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 29.535
12 55 Japan Atsushi Miyake Team Goh 33.444
13 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 35.643
14 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 42.243
15 12 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond Drago CORSE 44.485
16 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 44.851
17 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 46.689
18 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 48.700
19 14 Japan Kazuya Oshima docomo business ROOKIE 55.137
20 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 57.781
21 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 58.552
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