September 27, 2017
Gasly got 2nd place, and ready for the Series Champion at the final round.
Series name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 6
Event name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 6 Sportsland SUGO
Course: 3.704km × 68 laps (251.872km)
Qualifying: September 23 (Sat) / Cloudy after rain / Attendance 8,700 (Announcement from the organizer
Race: September 24 (Sun) / Fine / Attendance 14,000 (Announcement from the organizer)
The 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 6 took place at the Sportsland SUGO in Miyagi Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN joined the race with two cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly. It is the very first time for #15 Pierre Gasly to drive on this course on this weekend.
●September 23 (Sat)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 9th place (00:01:15:329)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 14th place (00:01:15:683)
#15 Pierre Gasly ran 21 laps at an exclusive course on Friday. It was the very first time for #15 Pierre Gasly to drive on the SUGO course. His time was 00:01:07:838 and he was in 13th position among 19 cars. #16 Naoki Yamamoto ran 23 laps and was 14th position.
At 9:00 on Saturday the free practice began. It rained in the middle of the nigh and the course was still wet. The competition committee declared that the course conditions were wet and all the cars were installed with the wet tires and entered the course.
The rain was about to stop and after the cars started driving on the course, the course was getting dried. Along with it each of the participants’ lap time was getting better. But there still remained water like a river on the some areas of the course. Not completely dried out yet.
45 minutes after the session started there appeared some teams which changed from the rain to dry tires. #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly came back to the pit with 12 minutes remaining and their cars were installed with dry tires and both of them went back to the course and finished their sessions with recording the best time.
#16 Naoki Yamamoto (Q1:16th place / 00:01:06:342, Q2: - , Q3: - )
#15 Pierre Gasly (Q1:14th place / 00:01:06:074, Q2: 6th place / 00:01:05.550, Q3: 3rd place / 00:01:05:080)
The qualifying session started at 13:15. The rain stopped and the course conditions were dry, full of the clouds were in the sky though. Both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto appeared on the course with new tires scrubbed at the morning free session, and tried the first time attack. #15 Pierre Gasly ran 4 laps and recorded 00:01:07:406 and #16 Naoki Yamamoto ran 6 laps and recorded 00:01:06:898 and came back to the pit.
After finishing the first time attack both of them felt the strong understeer. There was a possibility that the rain in the last night could remove rubbers on the course and the course condition changed. 7 minutes had remained till the session ended, both of them waited at the pit and came into the course for the time attack. At this moment #16 Naoki Yamamoto was in 16th position and #15 Pierre Gasly was in 15th position.
#15 Pierre Gasly recorded a time of 00:01:06:074 at the second time attack, and advanced to Q2 with 14th position. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto finished his Q1 with a record of 00:01:06:342, 16th positon and his starting grid position was confirmed.
The team engineers changed the setting of two cars to solve the understeer issue to get ready for Q2. At 13:45 the 7-minute Q2 session began. #15 Pierre Gasly recorded a time of 00:01:05:550 at his 3rd lap putting him in 6th position and advanced to Q3 with other 7 cars.
After 10-minute interval at 14:02 the 7-minute Q3 session in which 8 cars compete for the starting grid order began. #15 Pierre Gasly stood in the top position with a time of 00:01:05:080 at the 3rd lap. The other two cars broke this record and his starting grid was determined 3rd and that of #16 Naoki Yamamoto, 16th.
●September 24 (Sun)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 10th place (00:01:08:071)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 9th place (00:01:08:067)
The 30-minute free practice session took place at 9:00 in the morning on Sunday. The weather was fine with some clouds in the sky and the course conditions were dry. With red flag interruption the team members and two drivers carried out the final check of the fuel condition and #15 Pierre Gasly ended his session with a time of 00:01:08:071 and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did a time of 00:01:08:067, and #15 Pierre Gasly was in 10th position and #16 Naoki Yamamoto in 9th.
#15 Pierre Gasly, 2nd place (68 laps / 01:19:00:682 / Best lap: 00:01:08:304)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 18th place (66 laps / 01:16:59:968 / Best lap: 00:01:08:556)
In a morning all the clouds were gone and the clear sky appeared, and the warm-up session began just before the race. #15 Pierre Gasly made a pit stop once and executed the final adjustment. He ran 5 laps with a time of 00:01:09:139, putting him in 7th position. #16 Naoki Yamamoto ran 6 laps without pit stops and recorded a time of 00:01:09:485, putting him in 11th position. At this point strategy of #15 Pierre Gasly, one pit stop without tire change, that of #16 Naoki Yamamoto, no pit stop were already considered.
At 14:13 the race began. The moment the race began, the pole position car failed to accelerate, #15 Pierre Gasly changed the course on the inside and overtook the car and came up to the 2nd position. #16 Naoki Yamamoto also overtook one car and came up to the 15th position.
#15 Pierre Gasly tried to catch up a car going in front within 2 seconds, however, the gap between them started to spread after the 20th lap. At 20th lap the gap increased to 3.239 seconds, and at the 30th lap, 6.613 seconds. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto moved up his position lap by lap form the 10th lap, 13th position at the 11th lap 12th, at the 18th lap 11th, and at the 19th lap he moved up to the 10th position.
Toward the latter half of the 68 lap race, the strategy of each team started to work for the victory or defeat. #15 Pierre Gasly kept following the top car but when the gap between them went up to 6 seconds at the 42nd lap, the top car made a pit stop and the apparent position of #15 Pierre Gasly came to the top and the team pushed him up to catch up the top.
Some cars behind #15 Pierre Gasly tried to delay pit stop to see how the race would go on and the gap between them were less than 2 seconds. Further behind those cars with no fueling strategy were gradually coming close to #15 Pierre Gasly. The team was concerned the undercut and watched out for the cars with no fueling strategy.
At the 57th lap #15 Pierre Gasly came back to the pit and made the quickest fueling and went back to the course. No undercut of the car going behind and he could keep 2nd position.
At the end of the race the top car lost its pace and the distance between the top and #15 Pierre Gasly dramatically was shortened. At the 60th lap the time gap between them was shortened from 00:03:178 to less than 1 second. But in the end the top car increased its speed and #15 Pierre Gasly finished his race in the 2nd place.
#16 Naoki Yamamoto tying to complete the race without fueling moved up his position lap by lap and at the 57th lap 9th position and at the 60th 8th in which drivers can gain the points, and he tried furthermore, however, just before the end of the course, the gas started running short and his car lost the speed. In the end the car stopped just before the last corner of the 67th lap and the race ended.
#15 Pierre Gasly got on the podium 3 times in a row and gained 8 driver’s points totally 33 points. Only 0.5 points behind the top, and he remained 2nd position in a driver’s point ranking. #16 Naoki Yamamoto gaining no points was 10.5 and ranked in the 9th place. TEAM MUGEN also gained 8 team points and is ranked in 2nd position, 4 points behind the top team.
■Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto
I feel so regrettable at this race since my team mate was ranked in the 2nd place and on the other hand I did not get any points. On Friday with the used tires, I felt kind of a confidence and believe I could deal with the race well. But on Saturday the free practice session started with wet course conditions, and I assume that all the rubbers were swept away and feeling of the course totally changed.
At the qualifying I felt constant understeer and some oversteer. I tried to deal with them, but could not advance to Q2. Since my starting grid was latter position, we decided to finish the race without fueling. During the race my lap was not bad I noticed a great expected result, though I could not get any points. In the last 4 laps, the engine started to lose its power and in the end I could not go up the final corner and stopped the car. I was satisfied with the lap time of the race, however, results are everything. I will try my best to get the result at the final race in Suzuka.
■Comments from #15 Pierre Gasly
I could show the great performance with my team. I kept in mind that the starting was quite important for the qualifying and for the race at the same time. Then I could go get the 2nd position just after the race started. Till the 10th lap, I did not have any issues, but, I started to face a difficulty of which the gripping power of the rear tires were not enough.
In the latter half of the race the gripping power came back and I could push for the race again and gradually shorten the distance from the top car. After the pit stop I was told by the team to keep 2 seconds distance from the car going behind and I used over-take buttons. As the result I finished up opportunities to use the over-take button before the final lap of the race.
I wish I could have used it at the final lap. Anyway, since I could show the great performance and stood on the podium three times in a row, I am so happy. I also believe that our team did great jobs including their great formulation of the strategy and quite quick pit stop work.
I feel gratitude for my team and Honda because they prepared such a great car for me. I will try to be the series champion which I targeted for from the beginning of this race series, since there are only 0.5 points behind the top at the final race.
■Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka
In the beginning of the free practice session on Friday I felt good at the both cars, #15 and #16 judging from the condition of the used tires. In the Saturday morning since we could not test the dry tires, and which was not good for our team. At Q1 both two drivers faced a difficulty of the strong understeer, and #16 Naoki Yamamoto was defeated. Luckily #15 Pierre Gasly could advance to Q2 but his positon was just above the pass line.
After Q2 #15 Pierre Gasly maneuvered the car by himself with help of the magic setting of the chief engineer, Hoshi, he could move up to the 3rd position at the qualifying. I was so astonished and so happy at a time. At the race #15 Pierre Gasly moved up to the 2nd position, we warned him to watch out for the overcut and undercut of the cars with no fueling strategy. After the pit stop, #15 Pierre Gasly kept 2nd position but #19 was about to overtake #15 Pierre Gasly. From the middle of the race his pace got much better and showed us the quite impressive performance. His driving was so brave and speedy. I am sure he would show us the brilliant performance at the final race.
Since #16 Naoki Yamamoto had to start his race from the latter position, I adopted a different strategy from those of other teams. He also tried to keep the fuel efficient drive as much as possible. I feel so regrettable at his position of the qualifying since setting of the car was good ironically. As the result just before the end of the race he ran out of the fuel. We could come back to the pit for fueling, however, if we do so his positon could go down to 14th or 15th, considering the opinion of #16 Naoki Yamamoto, we chose a strategy not to fuel the car and get some points. But in the end we finished our race on a way. I regret my decision. We will challenge the final race with all my strength and all my heart and grasp a chance to let both drivers stand on the podium. I believe all the team members do a good job. What we can do now is to win the final race. We promise to show the greatest race to our sponsors, our supporting companies, and all the fans.