September 15, 2017

Gasly won the race again with his final decision
just before the race began.

Series name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 5
Event name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 5 Autopolis
Course: 4.674km × 54 laps (252.236km)
Qualifying: September 9 (Sat) / Fine / Attendance 4,400 (Announcement from the organizer)
Race: September 10 (Sun) / Fine / Attendance 10,500 (Announcement from the organizer)

The 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 5 took place at the Autopolis International Circuit in Oita Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN joined the race with two cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly. At this race, the same tire requirement as in the previous race, Round 4 Motegi is adopted in which all the participants have to use both soft and medium tires.


●September 9 (Sat)
■Free Practice
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 16th place (00:01:28:572)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 11th place (00:01:28:120)

#15 Pierre Gasly ran 14 laps at an exclusive course on Friday after a few months interval of the last run at the Autopolis International Circuit course. His time was 00:01:29:898, 5th place out of the 19 cars. #16 Naoki Yamamoto tried used tires and recorded the best time of 00:01:27:423.

Free practice session took place from 9:00 on Saturday under the clear sky. Each team had to check how the soft and medium tires would work on the course. After 5 minutes passed since the course opened, both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto came out to the course and started to drive their cars.


Both of them repeated pit stops and tire changes to figure out the best setting of each tire. During an hour session, #15 Pierre Gasly carried out the pit stop works six times and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 5 times to prepare their cars for the official qualifying.

At the end of the session they did the time attack practices and #15 Pierre Gasly recorded a time of 00:01:28:120 and #16 Naoki Yamamoto 00:01:28:572.

#16 Naoki Yamamoto (Q1:9th place / 00:01:28:698, Q2: 8th place / 00:01:27:265, Q3: 7th place / 00:01:27:178)
#15 Pierre Gasly (Q1:7th place / 00:01:28:648, Q2: 4th place / 00:01:27.003, Q3: 5h place / 00:01:26:738)

Due to new regulation requiring use of two kinds of tires, the participants are required to use the medium tires in Q1 session and any kinds of tires are accepted in Q2 and Q3. The 3 times official know-out style qualifying sessions started with Q1 session for 20 minutes from 13:45. At Q1 5 cars out of 19 are to be dropped out. Weather was fine and the air temperature was 30℃ and the course temperature was 44℃. The course conditions were dry.

Both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto selected the new medium tires and came into the course. They tried 4 laps to be accustomed to the course and came back to the pit. With 6 minutes remaining in the session, all the cars came into the course and started warm-up run.


Among them #16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded 00:01:28:698 right away and was in 4th position. But due to an accident on the course, a red flag was raised and the race was suspended. All the cars temporarily came back to their pits. At this point #16 Naoki Yamamoto was in 5th position and #15 Pierre Gasly missing a chance of a time attack was in 11th position.

With 3 minutes remaining at 14:10 the Q1 session resumed. When almost all of the cars started to try time attacks, #16 Naoki Yamamoto continued to stay in the pit. #15 Pierre Gasly recorded 00:01:28:648 just before the checkered flag was waved and recorded a time of 00:01:28:648 putting him in 7th place, and #16 Naoki Yamamoto avoiding his time attack whose position came down to 9th place and both of them could advance to Q2.

The 7-minute Q2 session started at 14:28. Both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto stayed at the pit with new tires installed. With 4 minutes remaining of the Q2 session, #16 Naoki Yamamoto came to the course then so did #15 Pierre Gasly and warmed up to try their time attacks.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded a time of 00:01:27:265 putting him in 3rd position and then #15 Pierre Gasly did 00:01:27:003. By the end of the session #15 Pierre Gasly was in 4th place and #16 Naoki Yamamoto was in 8th place and both of them advanced to Q3.

The 7-minute Q3 session started with 8 cars competing for the position of the starting grid at 14:45. #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly waited for their timing with new soft tires and came to the course late and started warm-up run. #16 Naoki Yamamoto recorded a time of 00:01:27:178 putting him 5th position. Then #15 Pierre Gasly did 00:01:26:738. As the result of Q3 session the starting grid of #15 Pierre Gasly was determined to be 5th and that of #16 Naoki Yamamoto was 7th.

●September 10 (Sun)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 10th place (00:01:30:657)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 16th place (00:01:31:911)

30-minuite free practice took place at 8:50. It was a bit cloudy but still blue sly could be seen. The course conditions were dry. For this race all the participants are required to come back to the pit at least once and use more than two kinds of tires, a set of soft tires and a set of medium tires.


That means all the teams have to figure out the characteristics of both kinds of tires and need to confirm the best settings for them at this free practice session. #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto selected the medium tires and came to the course. After 6 laps #15 Pierre Gasly recorded a time of 00:01:32:263 and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 00:01:31:911 after 8 laps.

The both of them changed tires to soft ones and came back to the course. #15 Pierre Gasly ran 11 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:30:657. So did #16 Naoki Yamamoto 9 laps, 00:01:31:414.

#15 Pierre Gasly, 1st place (54 laps / 01:24:28:619 / Best lap: 00:01:31:923)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, DNA (38 laps / 00:59:56:163 / Best lap: 00:01:31:225)

8-minuite warm-up session took place before the race. Both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto came to the course in their cars installed with sets of medium tires. After the final check, they went back to the pit and appeared on the dummy grid.

The air temperature just before the race was 25℃ and the course temperature was 33℃. Some thin clouds were in the sky. #15 Pierre Gasly waiting at the 5th grid made a decision to change the tires to the soft ones 5 minutes before the time limit. The first 10 cars except that of #15 Pierre Gasly were all installed with medium tires. Quite exceptional decision.


The formation lap took place at 13:05 and after one lap the race started and the moment the race started, #15 Pierre Gasly accelerated brilliantly and overtook cars going in front and got 2nd position when he came into the first corner. Behind such scene, #16 Naoki Yamamoto avoided a car going late got rear-ended and spun on the course and then his position went down dramatically. After one lap #15 Pierre Gasly was in 2nd position and #16 Naoki Yamamoto 16th.


#15 Pierrep Gasly tried to catch up the top with soft tires but not fast enough to overtake it. But lap time between #15 Pierre Gasly and the car in the 3rd position was spreading and at the 10th lap, which already spread to 5 seconds.

Lap time between #15 Pierre Gasly and the top car kept less than one second. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto overtook the cars going in front at 15th lap came up to 15th position, at 7th lap, 13th, 12th lap, 12th, 14th lap, 11th, and 18th lap, 10th position. After finishing 20th lap, #16 Naoki Yamamoto came back to the pit and his car got installed with the soft tires, fueled, went back to the course, and continued to go at a high pace. #15 Pierre Gasly came back to the pit after finishing 23 laps and finished quick tire change to medium tires and fueling, and his apparent position went down to 8th place.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto with soft tires increased his pace and at the 35th lap came up to 9th position, however, at the 38th lap his car suddenly spun at the jet coaster straight and its engine stopped. Considering possibility in which a contact at the start could bother the car and the team made a decision to let #16 Naoki Yamamoto retire the race.


Every time cars going in front of #15 Pierre Gasly went back to the pit, position of #15 Pierre Gasly went up and at 35th lap, his position was 3rd following the top and one car not pitted yet. The car going top came back to the pit at 38th lap and spent too much time at the pit and when it came back to the course, #15 Pierre Gasly moved up to the 2nd position.

Just after that a car going in apparent top came back to the pit and #15 Pierre Gasly was came out on top. When all the cars finished pit stop requirements, #15 Pierre Gasly was the top and there were 2.8 seconds between #15 Pierre Gasly and the car going in the second position.


After then the car going behind came cross to #15 Pierre Gasly but he tried to avoid it and took the checkered flag with 1.555 seconds proceeding to the car in the second place. This was the second successive win from the previous race. #15 Pierre Gasly gained 10 driver’s points totally 25 points. 5.5 points behind the top and he was ranked up to 2nd place. The total points of #16 Naoki Yamamoto gaining no points was 10.5 and ranked 9th place. TEAM MUGEN also gained 10 team points and is ranked in 2nd position, 4 points behind the top team.


■Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto

Since the preliminarily setting was good and starting was also good, and then I had a confidence in this weekend. But I could not adjust myself to the real condition. If I had identified the qualifying more, I could have captured the pole position.


In the race the staring was not good either but I recovered it and reset my mind and got ready for the race but at the first corner, a car wildly bumped me and, you know, the race was over. I myself could not do anything. But after that the car went well and I could keep the good pace with both medium and soft tires. Regarding the spin, I felt unusual feeling at the 12th corner and something went wrong.

The car needs investigating at the factory, however, we did not see any obvious damages or symptoms on the car, the cause might be due to myself. I turned off the clutch but the engine stopped. Bad things happened successively at this race. I will do my best in the next race.

■Comments from #15 Pierre Gasly

I am extremely happy about the second successive win. This is the very first time for me to compete in the Super Formula but even that I could win two races, which I am sure due to hard work of the team members. I feel strong gratitude toward them.

The reason why I changed the tires from the medium to the soft ones is because I could foresee that with the same tires, I would not be able to overtake other competitors at starting. I was planning to overtake the top car but as the gap between us was shortened, down force got lowered, and could not make it. After that due to degradation, overtaking would be much harder and I changed my mind and decided to keep decent pace. Starting was everything for today’s race.


To me Autopolis International Circuit was quite hard course physically and from the standpoint of tires. Then I paid lots of attention to such concerns. Anyway, I concentrated simply on the driving in the latter half of the race. I will push the next race!

■Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

On Friday both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly did good. There still remained some adjustments for the qualifying or the condition was not perfect, either, however, they could proceed to Q3 and kept 5th and 7th place. Of course two of them tried to get a pole position, and also due to their positions, they could find a chance to win the race. To make their strategies bothered me a lot.

I was planning to choose medium tires and one pit style for both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly, but #15 Pierre Gasly considering the situation at the grid, he made a decision to select soft tires and I accepted his request since it was not bad idea to adopt a strategy differing from that of #16 Naoki Yamamoto’s. And the starting was everything. So brilliant start. Like in the previous race #15 Pierre Gasly got off to a great start and moved up to 2nd position.


It was good for him to keep the position steadily. I was concerned about durability of the tires but #15 Pierre Gasly informed me that the tire condition was good through the wireless, then let him continue to use them as much as possible. But there was a possibility that other cars would overtake #15 Pierre Gasly by means of the “undercut,” then when the car lost its weight due to gas consumption, we adopted the medium tires.

At the end of the race the engineers encouraged him to push up and at the same time him know his position, being the top, and then his pace decreased. We should not have informed him of his position probably. Regarding #16 Naoki Yamamoto, I regret so much about the accident at a start. He did good with both medium and soft tires, and in fact his position moved up to 9th. He also had a chance to get points, however, all of the sudden he spun and the engine stopped.

When I looked back on, this weekend was kind of unstable one. I hope #16 Naoki Yamamoto to get on the podium at the next race. We would like to ask for your continued support.