May 30, 2017

Naoki Yamamoto gained the points in the race 1 and 2 and so did Pierre Gasly in the race 2.

Series name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 2
Event name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 2 Okayama International Circuit
Race 1 Course: 3.703km × 30 laps (111.090km)
Race 2 Course: 3.703km × 51 laps (188.853km)
Qualifying・Race: May 27 (Sat) / Fine / Attendance 7,100 (Announcement from the organizer)
Qualifying・Race: May 28 (Sun) / Fine / Attendance 11,000 (Announcement from the organizer)

2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 2 was held on May 27 (Sat) and 29 (Sun) at the Okayama International Circuit in Okayama Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN participated in this race with 2 cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly. The event this time is not like others and is so called 2 race format in which the race 1 is held on Saturday and the race 2 on Sunday.


On Saturday morning free practice and the official 20-min qualifying to determine the starting grid at the race 1 are carried out and then in the afternoon 30-lap race will be held. The race 1 does not require tire exchange. No free practice on Sunday, knockout formula qualifying sessions, Q1 and Q2 to be held to determine the starting grid at race 2. In the race to be held in the afternoon all the participating cars are required to go total 51 laps and change the tires.

Half the normal points are given as the series point and 1 pole position point at each race 1 and 2. The overtake button is limited to be used for 5 times throughout both the race 1 and 2.


May 27 (Sat)

Free Practice
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 7th place (00:01:14:344)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 17th place (00:01:14:643)

On Saturday at 8:40 45-min free practice was carried out. Weather in the Okayama International Circuit was fine, and the course conditions were dry. #15 car damaged at the exclusive drive in a previous day was fixed and both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto started their drive in a good condition.

Both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly drove the cars with adjusting preliminary setting to figure out the final setting. #16 Naoki Yamamoto went for 22 laps and in the last lap he recorded a time of 00:01:14:344 putting him in 7th position. #15 Pierre Gasly did 23 laps and ended with the lap of 00:01:14:643 putting him in 17th position.


Race1 Official qualifying
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 9th place (00:01:14:293)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 13th place (00:01:14:424)

The sky was clear and the course conditions were dry. An air temperature was 20℃ and the course surface temperature was 26℃. As soon as the course opened, both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly came into the middle of the cars with new tires installed. The participating cars are allowed to use 4 sets of new tires thorough the race 1 and 2.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded a time of 00:01:14:512 at the very first time attack and came back to the pit. #15 Pierre Gasly finished his first time attack with a lap time, 00:01:14:802.

After coming back to the pit subtle adjustment was done and the tires were changed and when in the 6 minutes remaining before the end of the session #16 Naoki Yamamoto started a time attack and so did #15 Pierre Gasly with less than 5 minutes remaining.

#16 Naoki Yamamoto warmed up the tires in a narrow course trying to avoid the mass of the cars in front to find his position. After the checkered flag was waved, #16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded a time of 00:01:14:293 putting him in up to 7th position at the final lap. But then other cars recorded better laps and the starting grid of #16 Naoki Yamamoto fell down to 9th.

#15 Pierre Gasly recorded his best lap time, 00:01:14:424 at the final lap and his starting grid was determined to be 13th.

Race 1

The formation lap of the race 1 started at 15:30. The race 1 is sprint race and tire exchange is not required. #16 Naoki Yamamoto made a good start ad went up to the 5th position. On the other hand #15 Pierre Gasly contacted slightly with a car going inside of the first corner and lost some positions. Then the car competing at the Hobbs corner ran over the front wing of his car and the white smoke started to emit due to friction between the damaged part of the front wing and the tires. #15 Pierre Gasly decided to come back to the pit.

The nose corn and tires were replaced and let #15 Pierre Gasly go back to the course, however, he was already almost 1 lap behind. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto moved up to the 5th position and kept his position 1 second distance from the cars in front and behind.


#15 Pierre Gasly going 1 lap behind from the top had a discussion with the team members and adopted a strategy to make use of this race for the race 2. Then he slowed down and kept a distance from the cars in front and tried to figure out how to maneuver the car when in push, the ideal method of the driving under such a circumstance as that of the race 2, how to deal with the tires, and direction of the setting.

In the 30-lap sprint race there was no big changes and #16 Naoki Yamamoto kept his position and finished the race in 5th place, and earned 2 driver’s points. #15 Pierre Gasly ended the race in 19th place.


May 28 (Sun)

Race2 Official qualifying
#16 Naoki Yamamoto (Q1:19th place / 00:01:15:309, Q2:DNS)
#15 Pierre Gasly (Q1:7th place / 00:01:14:685, Q2:5th place / 00:01:14.566)

The weather was bright and clear. Qualifying of the race 2 was held as 2 knockout formula. In 20-min Q1 top 10 out of 19 cars are entitled to proceed to Q2 and after 10 minutes interval, in Q2 the entitled cars will compete for the grid position.

As soon as the course opened, both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly came into the middle of the cars, and checked the race course situation and came back to the pit. At this point #16 Naoki Yamamoto was in 14th position and #15 Pierre Gasly was in 18th position. #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly waited for the miming of a time attack and in 8 minutes remaining, both of them entered the course for a time attack.

It was #15 Pierre Gasly that prior to #16 Naoki Yamamoto challenged time attack. At the 10th lap #15 Pierre Gasly recorded a time of 00:01:14:685 putting him in 4th position. Following #15 Pierre Gasly, #16 Naoki Yamamoto also conducted a time attack. During the time attack #16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded the best lap, however, the session was suspended due to a car stuck on the course. Red flag and #16 Naoki Yamamoto had no choice but to give up his time attack.


After the stuck car was removed, the qualifying session restarted when in just 2.5 minutes remaining. #16 Naoki Yamamoto tried another time attack to get better lap time, but at the last corner he lost control and his car span half way and he could not improve his time, his car was not damaged though. 00:01:15:431 was recorded as his lap time and the staring grid of #16 Naoki Yamamoto was allocated in the last row. That of #15 Pierre Gasly was determined based on his last lap just before the red flag, and was proceeded to Q2 and his starting grid would be 7th.

#15 Pierre Gasly entered the course and initiated a time attack in the remaining 7 minutes of the 10-min Q2 starting at 10:00. The result was 0:01:14:566 faster than that in Q2, putting him in 5th position of the starting grid.

Race 2
#15 Pierre Gasly, 7th place (51 laps / Best lap: 00:01:16:968)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 8th place (51 laps / Best lap: 00:01:16:191)

At 14:28 under a clear sky the race started. The air temperature was 27℃ and the course surface temperature was 41℃. The weather was as if one in the summer. The moment starting flag was waved, #15 Pierre Gasly in the 5th position accelerated so rapidly to try overtaking the cars going in front through outside of the course, however, one car in front also came to the outside of the course and #15 Pierre Gasly went out of the course and lost some positions.


Due to team rule, #15 Pierre Gasly going in front of #16 Naoki Yamamoto had a right to determine a timing of the pit stop. #15 Pierre Gasly and the team made a decision to come back to the pit to change the tires at the 1st lap when #15 Pierre Gasly lost his positions.

#16 Naoki Yamamoto going behind #15 Pierre Gasly was wondering if he should come back to the pit at the 2nd lap following #15 Pierre Gasly, but so many cars were also coming back to the pit at that timing. #16 Naoki Yamamoto changed his strategy to come back to the pit early but stayed on the course. Because the car going in front of #16 Naoki Yamamoto also came back to the pit and there appeared a space in front and he found a chance to keep going in his pace.

#15 Pierre Gasly came back to the course after his pit stop, he lost his position and resumed his race in tentative 11th position. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto staying on the course came up in tentative 6th position at the 4th lap when other cars came back to the course from the pit.

Then at 6th lap #16 Naoki Yamamoto came up in tentative 5th position and kept on going in the middle of the race. But when in the 20 laps remaining, #16 Naoki Yamamoto took an action to come back to the pit. At the 33rd lap after tire exchange, his real position was 9th following 8th position of #15 Pierre Gasly.

At 38th lap, a car going in front row went out of the course at the 2nd corner and the safety car came into the course. All the cars were required to go in a line and the position of #15 Pierre Gasly went up in 7th and that of #16 Naoki Yamamoto in 8th. The race resumed at 43th lap but the race remained as it was. The checkered flag was waved and the 51-lap race ended. #15 Pierre Gasly finished the race with 7th place and #16 Naoki Yamamoto in 8th.


As a result #16 Naoki Yamamoto gained 2 points at the race 1 and 0.5 points at the race 2. #15 Pierre Gasly gained 1 driver’s point. #16 Naoki Yamamoto was positioned in 3rd with 1.5 points behind the winner in the driver’s ranking. #15 Pierre Gasly tied the point for 14th position. 3 points were added to TEAM MUGEN and its team ranking came to 3rd.


Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto

I wanted to change certain area of the characteristics of the car but could not make it. In qualifying I felt a difficulty to figure out what to do for level-up of the car, and in the end ended the qualifying with 9th place. But I believe I could have a good start and pass through confusion of cars occurring just after the start and finished the race with 5th position.


In the race 1 I believe I could do my best as of that time. In the race 2 judging from the position in qualifying I assume that I did my best but I did not expect of gaining the points While I was out on the course, I was asked if I would like to come back to the pit nor not. I replied that I would keep on going since the car condition was good. Since the race was taken place just after the qualifying in which I made a fault, the race was mentally so tough to me. But I could gain 0.5 points even my starting grid was in the last row. This meant a lot to me. As a team 2 of our cars could get points. I would like to try my best for the rest of the races from this position.

Comments from #15 Pierre Gasly

Though I suffered from some issues including a bit too much understeer or short stability of the braking, the car itself was not bad. In the race 1 I tried to overtake the cars in front from the outside of the course but contacted other car and lost 3 positions. Then at the1st turn the front wing was run over and the white smoke came from the tires and I had no choice but to come back to the pit. It was a disappointing race. Since I was 1 lap behind, I made up my mind to utilize this race for the race 2.


In the race 2 the moment the race started, I tried to go front through outside of the course, but was pushed out of the course and picked up grasses. Because of the grasses, tire grip got weaker and I came back to the pit and at the same time changed tires. I tried my best, however, could not go up to the better position. I was satisfied with gaining driver’s points and getting some kind of result. I tried various driving. I would like to get better result at next Fuji race.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

In the race 1 the position in the qualifying and start played a big role. The position of both 2 cars in the race was not satisfactory one. But at least they made use of what they acquired from the race 1 for the race 2. In fact #16 Naoki Yamamoto could have a good start and moved up to 5th position. #15 Pierre Gasly could increase his experience through various patterns of driving. In the race 2 it was #16 Naoki Yamamoto himself who felt frustrated the most. 15 Pierre Gasly did a good job and marked 5th place in its qualifying, he expected better place though.


Considering pit stop timing of #19 which won the race, since the timing was the same as ours, I feel regrettable. I am afraid that the total power of our cars are not strong enough. Drivers drove the cars with learning how to maneuver them. Since #16 Naoki Yamamoto started the race from the tail end of the cars, he could consider the pit stop timing of #15 Pierre Gasly, and made a decision not to come back to the pit to a possibility to go further. Owing to good lap time among the middle group and good start, #16 Naoki Yamamoto could finish the race with 8th place. I apologize not to have built up the cars that can win the race. The team will have a fruitful meeting and prepare the car whose performance is much better for the next race Fuji. As a team we would like to find solutions for the issues occurring now and share the information among 2 cars to get better result. We ask for everyone’s continued support.