July 13, 2018

Yamamoto gained one series point and narrowly remained in the top

Series name: 2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round 4
Round name: 2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round 4
Course: 4.563km x 55 laps (250.965km)   

2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round 4 took place at the Fuji SpeedWay in Shizuoka Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN joined the race with two cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto along with #15 Daniel Ticktum who is the winner of the renowned 2017 Macau Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup.


July 7 (Sat)

Free Practice
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, (Best time: 00:01:38.372 – 12th place)
#15 Daniel Ticktum, (Best time: 00:01:37.995 – 4th place)


The weather in FujiSpeedway was unstable due to influence of the staying rainy front. Free practice sessions were held in wet conditions on both Friday and Saturday. All the cars were installed with the rainy tires and entered the track. Though it was barely raining, the cars still splashed water on the track.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto remained in the top group in the first half of the session. With 10 minutes remaining #15 Daniel Ticktum who had been among the bottom group picked up the pace and joined the top group. The two cars took laps steadily and #16 Naoki Yamamoto took 21 laps and recorded the best time, 00:01:38.372 putting him in 12th place at 19th lap. #15 Daniel Ticktum ended up the free session with 22 laps and at the final lap he made a record of 00:01:37.995 putting him in 4th place.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto:(Q1:2nd place 00:01:24.181 / Q2:7th place 00:01:24:197 / Q3:2nd place 00:01:38:289)
#15 Daniel Ticktum:(Q1: 19th place 00:01:25:553 / Q2: DNS / Q3: DNS)


The qualifying session began at 2:30PM. The rain from the morning almost stopped. The support race was carried out in dry conditions. But just before the Q1 session began, it started to rain again. Though the organizer declared “wet conditions”, because the track was not fully wet, all the participants selected medium slick tires and entered the track.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto shortened the lap time in high gear. On the other hand #15 Daniel Ticktum who would try slick tires for the first time in this 2018 series and put a priority on getting used to the tires, and was planning to try a time attack with a second set of tires. Naturally he did not pick up speed. After finishing the first half of the session, he took a pit stop and prepared for the time attack with the second set of tires, however, the rain started to fall heavily.


Most of the cars gave up time attacks and came back to the pit due to such a weather condition that they could not expect making better times. Cars hoping to advance to Q2 continued to try time attacks, but in vain. #16 Naoki Yamamoto in 2nd place was entitled to advance to Q2. #15 Daniel Ticktum concentrating on getting used to the slick tires in the first half of the session finished up the Q1 session in the last place and could not advance to Q2.


Though rain was letting up during the 10-minute interval, the road surface was still wet and the condition had become very unstable. Some participants in Q2 selected rain tires, and others chose dry tires. #16 Naoki Yamamoto entered the track with rain tires.


But when #16 Naoki Yamamoto took a lap, he noticed that slick tires were preferable. He made a decision to come back to the pit for change of tires. TEAM MUGEN changed the rain tires for the medium slick tires, and let #16 Naoki Yamamoto go back to the track. The reason why the team did not choose the soft tires whose basic grip is stronger but chose medium tires was that the medium tires had already been warmed up and the team could expect its grip to start to work soon. #16 Naoki Yamamoto tried time attack at next lap and recorded a time of 00:01:25.157. At that point he was in 2nd position, but other competitors tried time attacks one after another and made faster lap times. #16 Naoki Yamamoto tried the second time attack in the last lap and shortened the time to 00:01:24.197 putting him in 7th place and was able to advance to Q2.


Just before the Q3 session, it started to rain heavily. Road surface was getting wet. Under such a condition as was very difficult to select proper tires, most of the participants including #16 Naoki Yamamoto entered the track with the soft slick tires. But during the 1st lap, all the participants found out that they could not set a new record with the slick tires so then all of them took a pit stop to exchange the slick tires for rain ones.


Q3 session lasts only 7 minutes. The team wanted to avoid wasting time for tire change to save time for time attacks. TEAM MUGEN made a quick decision and asked #16 Naoki Yamamoto to come back to the pit, and pit crews changed the tires and let him go back to the track in a short period of time. Then they warmed up the tires, but there was little time left for time attacks, which had an impact on the result of Q3.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto owing to quick pit work, passed the control line just before the checkered flag was swung down, and recorded a time of 00:01:40.279, 3rd position. But after that the cars going behind tried time attacks and set faster records and positon of #16 Naoki Yamamoto went down.


But #16 Naoki Yamamoto passed through the control line while all the other cars received a checkered flag. He got a chance to try another time attack with warmed tires. As the result he recorded a time of 00:01:38.289 in the end and was entitled to start from the 2nd grid position at the race. On the other hand the starting grid of #15 Daniel Ticktum was in the bottom row, 19th position.


July 8 (Sun)


Free Practice
16 Naoki Yamamoto, (Best time: 00:01:25.713 – 10th place)
#15 Daniel Ticktum, (Best time: 00:01:26.006 – 14th place)


30-minute free practice session started at 9:00AM on Sunday. It was cloudy and the track conditions were dry. It was the first time for all the participants to drive under dry conditions on this weekend.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto took laps to adjust his car as a preparation for the race, and #15 Daniel Ticktum did to be familiar with the slick tires on the track of Fuji SpeedWay. #16 Naoki Yamamoto took 15 laps with a time of 00:01:25.713, 14th place and #15 Daniel Ticktum took 17 laps with a time of 00:01:26.006, 10th place while they took pit stops and adjusted their cars.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 8th place (55 laps / 01:21:53.798 / Best lap: 00:01:26.797)
#15 Daniel Ticktum, 11th place (55 laps / 01:22:18.112 / Best lap: 00:01:27.262)


There were some clouds in the sky and it rained a bit in the morning. But then the weather recovered and the sun appeared between clouds and the race was carried out under dry conditions. #15 Daniel Ticktum took 5 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:26.856, and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 6 laps with a time of 00:01:26.899 and ended the session in 5th place and 6th place each.


Regarding #16 Naoki Yamamoto, the team made a plan to fill up the tank of his car and install the soft tires with it at the start of the race, and when #16 Naoki Yamamoto finished first half of the race, he would come back to the pit to change the tires for medium ones, and for refueling, which was quite orthodox strategy. On the other hand for #15 Daniel Ticktum who started from the bottom row, the team made a strategy to provide soft tires and less fuel with his car. The team expected him to overtake cars in the first half of the race.


The race began at 2:15PM. #16 Naoki Yamamoto starting from the front row got a not bad start, however, his position went down to 5th at the first corner. But then at the hairpin curve of the opening lap he dove into the cars going in front and his position went up to 4th.Then #16 Naoki Yamamoto was following the car in 3rd positon with less than 2 seconds’ interval. But the cars in the top and 2nd position went so fast that distance between #16 Naoki Yamamoto and them spread out at every lap. #16 Naoki Yamamoto remained in the 4th position and kept going, but gradually slowed down due to wear of the tires. At the first corner of the 27th lap #16 Naoki Yamamoto could not avoid the car trying to overtake him and lost one position. At the end of that lap he took a pit stop for installation of the medium tires and refueling.


#15 Daniel Ticktum who started the race in the lightweight car overtook 3 cars in only one lap and his position went up to 16th. He continued to overtake cars going in front successively and moved up to 14th position at 2nd lap, 13th position at 5th lap, 12th position at 6th lap, 11th position at 7th lap, and 10th position at 9th lap. He steadily managed to move up his position. An apparent positon of #15 Daniel Ticktum went up to 5th cause some of other cars took a pit stop, then after finishing 30 laps, he came back to the pit for refueling and installation of medium tires.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto who went back to the track had lost his positions to 8th could not pick up the pace due to the medium tires and remained in the same position. Rather cars installed with the medium tires in the beginning of the race started to use soft tires and tried to catch up #16 Naoki Yamamoto. At 36th lap #16 Naoki Yamamoto and the car behind ran tail to nose and in the end at the first corner the car caught up #16 Naoki Yamamoto, but he tried hard to avoid it and remained in the 8th position.


The car trying to catch up #16 Naoki Yamamoto wore out the tires and used up the overtake system and then somehow stopped trying to overtake#16 Naoki Yamamoto. #16 Naoki Yamamoto kept more than one second distance from the car behind and finished the race. #16 Naoki Yamamoto ended the race in 8th place and gained 1 driver’s point, and #15 Daniel Ticktum started from the last row, but moved up to 11th place and completed the race.


As the result, the total series point of #16 Naoki Yamamoto increased to 22 points and remained in the top position with one point ahead of the second winning car. TEAM MUGEN also gained 1 team point and also remained in the top, the same total points as that of the second winning team.


Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto

I was so lucky to get 2nd place under such very harsh weather conditions. I could not try the dry tires till the free session on Sunday. Everything I had tried before the race worked negatively. What I only could do at the race was to keep my position since I could not pick up the pace well. It was quite tough race.


In the first half of the race since the tires were worn out, I wanted to change them, but even with the medium tires, I could not pick up the pace. I am afraid any strategies did not work then. I was so lucky to gain one point, however, the second winning car won the race and I cannot be comfortable with my position any more.


Comments from #15 Daniel Ticktum

I could finish the free session on Saturday under wet conditions well enough in the 4th place. But when it came to the qualifying, the condition changed into dry one and I faced a difficulty with it. I tried to find out the best timing for the time attack but unfortunately it started to rain so heavily that disappointedly I could not find a chance, and the race ended.


I could not foresee the condition change due to less knowledge of the circuit place. I started with the soft tires and could move up to 11th place from the last position at the race. I enjoyed this weekend. Though I only took part in the race in Japan twice, I feel I had good experience. I will surely come back.


Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

#16 Naoki Yamamoto could get 2nd place thanks to synergetic effect of Yamamoto’s concentration and team’s effort. Regarding #15 Daniel Ticktum, it was the very first time for him to use dry tires at that Q1 then he could not have confidence in time attacks with the first set of the dry tires. I expected him to show his performance with the second set of the dry tires, however, it started to rain so heavily that he could not do his best. It is a bit bitter word, but he should have made a better lap time with the first set of the dry tires, though. Two cars going in front of him were so fast.


I had no doubt that the total amount of the fuel in those cars were less than that of #15, but in reality the same. So surprising. #16 Naoki Yamamoto wanted to go more, but he could not pick up the pace and the tires were getting worn out. I am afraid that this would attribute to a poor total packaging of the car. Regarding #15 Daniel Ticktum, his starting was very good, and he overtook so many cars and completed 250km race. I believe that he could have get confidence through this race. We would like to learn a lot from both good and bad points at this race and prepare for winning the next race.