June 03, 2016

The second race of the series was called off before the end due to bad weather. TEAM MUGEN started from the No. 6 position and finished the race in 5th place.


Series name: 2016 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 2
Event name: 2016 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 2 - Okayama International Circuit
Course: 3.703km × 68 laps (251.804km)
Qualifying:May 28 (Sat) / Overcast / Attendance 4,500 (Announcement from the organizer)
Race: May 29 (Sun) / Overcast, rain / Attendance 7,000 (Announcement from the organizer)


Round 2 of the 2016 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Series was held at the Okayama International Circuit in Okayama Prefecture on May 28 (Sat) and 29 (Sun). #16 Naoki Yamamoto participated as the driver for TEAM MUGEN in this race. #16 Naoki Yamamoto arrived at race week in high spirits, having won the opening race of the series that was held at the Suzuka Circuit.


May 27 (Fri)

■  Practice session
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 4th place (00:01:16.371)

Because a Friday driving session has been added beginning from this season, #16 Naoki Yamamoto drove for one hour starting at 15:35 on the 27th. The conditions were mid-summer conditions with clear skies, a temperature of 31°C, and road surface temperatures that reached 46°C. Although #16 Naoki Yamamoto did not record the session's best time, he consistently recorded times in the upper places while making fine adjustments to the settings before ending driving on that day. #16 Naoki Yamamoto's best time was 00:01:16.371, 0.613 seconds behind the best time of the 19 cars and putting him in 4th position.


May 28 (Sat)

■  Exclusive drive (1st)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 5th place (00:01:13.944)

The following day on Saturday the 28th, an exclusive drive was held on the dry course starting from 9:00. The weather was cloudy beginning from the morning and in a big change from the day before, the temperature had dropped and the course conditions were significantly different. Although it was planned to change the brake pad material this season, due to issues with preparation by the organizer, the cars continued to use their stocks of the previous brake pads for the last time at this event.

Beginning from this series, the number of new tires that can be used during a single race week was increased from 3 sets to 4 sets. The total number of tire sets brought to race week, including used tires carried over from earlier races, remains 8 sets. The team decided to use the used tires for the settings behind schedule.

The team installed the used tires during the first half of the session and checked the settings that had been adjusted on the previous day. The forecast was for worsening weather headed into race day, and the team worked to adapt to the changing conditions. At the start of the session, #16 Naoki Yamamoto overran the course and returned to the pit. However no problems were found and he returned to the course and began to steadily shorten his times.



The cars in the upper positions plunged straight away into times of 00:01:14 - 00:01:15, however driver Yamamoto's times remained slightly over 00:01:15 at the end of the first half of the session, and he prepared for a time attack simulation in the second half. During the second half of the session, a red flag was raised to recover a car that had left the course.

The session resumed with 15 minutes remaining. #16 Naoki Yamamoto began a simulation of a time attack. Instead of new tires, he was using used tires that had been peeled prior to driving. With a fine rain beginning to fall, he immediately scored a time just over 00:01:13 and gained the top position.

Later drivers beat this time, however at the end of the session, #16 Naoki Yamamoto's position was 5th, and he was 0.322 seconds behind the top time. He ended the exclusive drive session and went into the qualifying session in an excellent position.


■  Qualifying session
#16 Naoki Yamamoto (Q1:6th place, 00:01:14.718, Q2: 6th place, 00:01:14.168, Q3: 6th place, 00:01:14.027)

At the start of the qualifying session, the temperature was 22°C, and the 3 knockout formula qualifying sessions began under conditions that were completely different than those of the exclusive drive on the previous day. The normal rules were applied. As usual, Q1 was a 20 minute session, with the top 14 vehicles advancing to Q2 and the starting grid decided for the vehicles in 15th and lower places. The top 14 vehicles from Q1 advanced to the 7 minute Q2 session and conducted a time attack. Based on the results, the top 8 vehicles advanced to Q3, while the starting grid for positions 9 - 14 was decided. At Q3, the vehicles competed for the top 8 grid positions including the pole position.


The 20 minute Q1 session began at 14:10. The sky was overcast with a light layer of clouds. #16 Naoki Yamamoto entered the course with used tires installed and began his laps. On the 4th lap, he recorded a time of 00:01:15.493, which was the top time at that point. Although his position gradually slipped thereafter, on the 6th lap, he shortened his time to 00:01:15.134 and moved back up to the No. 2 position. At this point, he returned to the pit.

During the second half of the session, #16 Naoki Yamamoto entered the course with 7:20 minutes remaining. With new tires installed, he began a time attack. The first 3 laps including the entry lap were spent for warming up the tires, and just before the checkered flag he recorded a time of 00:01:14.718, putting him solidly in 6th position going into Q2.


After a 10 minute interval, Q2 began with a field that had been reduced from 14 to 8 cars. It was scheduled to last 7 minutes starting from 14:40. Considering the lower road surface temperature, #16 Naoki Yamamoto decided to use 3 laps including the entry lap to fully warm up the tires in the same way as Q1, and began his time attack on the 4th timed lap. The result was 00:01:14.715, putting him in 10th position at that time. He continued his attack and recorded a time of 00:01:14.168 to take the checkered flag, advancing to Q3 in 6th position.

After another 10 minute interval, Q3 began at 14:57. #16 Naoki Yamamoto entered the course at an early stage and began warming up the tires. On the 4th timed lap, he recorded a time of 00:01:14.027, which was the top time at that point. Some later drivers beat this time and his position moved down, however he gained the No. 6 position in the starting grid with a time that was 0.407 seconds behind the pole position.


May 29 (Sun)

■   Exlusive drive (2nd)
#16 Naoki Yamamot, 8th place (00:01:17.136)

The skies above the Okayama International Circuit started out with patches of sun. However the weather gradually worsened as the skies clouded over and the humidity increased. The second exclusive drive was held under dry conditions starting from 9:00. Although this was the opportunity to check the settings for the final race, rain was forecast around the time the final race was scheduled to start. It was necessary to also consider the rain settings, making this session particularly difficult.

#16 Naoki Yamamoto made headway in reducing his time, and 10 minutes after the start, he recorded a time of 00:01:17.947 which put him in the No. 7 position.


However a red flag was raised to interrupt the session in order to recover a car that had left the course. After a 7 minute interruption, the session resumed with 13 minutes remaining. #16 Naoki Yamamoto shortened his time to 00:01:17.136, and ended the session in the No. 8 position out of 19 cars.

■   Final Race
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 5th place (8 laps / 00:22:10.385 / Best lap 00:02:35.385)

A light rain began to fall after the exclusive drive, but it had lightened up temporarily by the time the Japanese Formula 3 Championship supporting event finished. However the rain intensified as the 15:00 start time for the final race approached, and when the start time arrived the course condition was fully wet.


The final race was started by the leading safety car. Under the competition rules, the 68-lap final race was considered to have started at the time when the cars left the dummy grid. Originally, the safety car would withdraw and the race would “resume” at the time when the racing cars had finished warming up their tires. However the road conditions were poor and there were deep pools of water at several locations on the course. A fog had also settled over the circuit. The conditions did not permit the race to resume and the safety car run continued for 8 laps.

During this time, some teams entered the pit due to trouble caused by the heavy rain. #16 Naoki Yamamoto kept his position and continued driving. On lap 6, the driver in the No. 2 position stopped due to machine trouble, moving #16 Naoki Yamamoto up to 5th position.


Eventually, the racing association decided that there was no prospect of resuming the race, and interrupted the race with the red flag. The racing vehicles stopped on the lap 9 home stretch and waited for the weather to recover. However there was no recovery, and at 16:05, the idea of resuming the race was abandoned and the rest of the race was called off. Due to the competition rules, the race results were decided by the positions at the end of lap 8 before the red flag was raised, and #16 Naoki Yamamoto finished the race in 5th place.


Because less than 75% of the race distance was completed, the competition rules state that the winning drivers receive half of the championship points. As a result, #16 Naoki Yamamoto added 2 points to his score for a total of 13 points, keeping him in the top rank position. The TEAM MUGEN received the points for a total of 12 points, placing them No. 2 in the ranking. The third race of the series will be held on July 16 - 17 at the Fuji Speedway.


■ Comments from driver, Naoki Yamamoto

Considering the fast times we made during the winter test on this same Okayama course, and the great performance at the opening race of the series, I am quite ashamed of this result. This is not the result we had been hoping for. As a result, we were unable to bring everything in the car together.

We had not driven before under hot conditions like those on Friday, and were cautious about adjusting the settings we had made before arrival. It felt like we made a mistake somewhere, and were unable to fix it all the way to Q3.

Although I feel regrets, when I think of it now we made it through Q3 and gained the No. 6 position, got a good start in the race and moved up one position to gain some valuable points. As a result, I think we were fortunate to get off with only a “minor injury”.


The conditions today were really unsuitable for racing. Even when driving at the safety car speed, it was impossible to see anything ahead. Of course as a driver, I was ready and waiting to begin the race at any moment, but I think the decision by the racing association was wise.

However I am very sorry that we were unable to give a race to all the fans who stayed until the very end. I hope that the fans will understand. There were ups and downs in our performance at the opening race and at Okayama, so we will work to identify the causes in preparation for the next race at Fuji.


■ Comments from the team director, Nagataka Tezuka

Because of heavy rain, unfortunately the race had to be called off. It is a terrible feeling not to be unable to give all the fans the race they wanted to see.

I hope that the fans will understand that this was a matter of safety. From the pit as well, I heard that fans braved the harsh conditions as they waited for the race. I hope that we can repay them in some way for their disappointment.

We started the practice driving with the specifications that had worked well during the winter test, however the feeling that they provided was not good.


I was not satisfied with our positions during the qualifying sessions. I am sure that the staff and Mr. Yamamoto all know that those were not the positions we wanted. It was very disappointing.

We ended the final race in 5th place, due in part to a rival's machine trouble caused by the bad weather. Although we only received half of the championship points, from the series perspective I think we gained a proper number of points. It is important that we identify the causes of the trouble at Okayama before facing the next race at Fuji, and that is what we will do.

We will prepare so that we can provide enough joy to all of our fans and to everyone who has cooperated with us so that we can make up for this race as well. I ask for everyone's continued support.