September 20, 2018

A chance to become the series champion still remains for Yamamoto

Series name: 2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round 6
Event name: 2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round6
Course: Okayama International Circuit Course: 3.703km x 54 laps (199.962km)
Qualifying: September 8 (Sat) / Rain / Attendance 5,400 (Announcement from the organizer)
Race: September 9 (Sun) / Rain / Attendance 8,000 (Announcement from the organizer)

2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship Round 6 took place at the OKAYAMA International Circuit in Okayama Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN joined the race with two cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto along with #15 Nirei Fukuzumi. This race was the third trial of the 2018 Japanese SUPER FORMULA Championship for #15 Nirei Fukuzumi.


September 8, 2018 (Sat)

Free Practice
#15 Nirei Fukuzumi, (7th place / Best time: 00:01:27.125)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, (16th place / Best time: 00:01:28.105)


One-hour free session was held from 9:45AM on Saturday. It had started to rain from the previous night and both ambient and road surface temperatures were low and the road condition was wet in OKAYAMA International Circuit. Under such a weather condition, both #15 Nirei Fukuzumi and #16 Naoki Yamamoto selected rain tires and entered the track to take some laps. 5 minutes after the free session began, a car stopped on the track and the red flag was raised. The session was suspended till 10:00AM.


#15 Nirei Fukuzumi took 24 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:27.125 at the 22nd lap in 7th place. #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 20 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:28.105 and finished the free session in 16th place.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto:(Q1:14th place 00:01:28.530 / Q2: 10th place 00:01:26:803 / Q3: DNS)
#15 Nirei Fukuzumi:(Q1: 18th place 00:01:33:377 / Q2: DNS / Q3:DNS)


The 3 knockout formula qualifying sessions started with the 20-minute Q1 session at 3:15PM. The rain stopped temporarily, but the road condition was still wet. Each car selected wet tires and entered the track, however, at the 2nd lap #15 Nirei Fukuzumi spun at the first corner and went out of the track before the tires got warm. He then drove into gravel area and was stuck there.

Just before such an accident happened, since other car was also stuck on the middle of the track, the session was suspended by a red flag. Since #15 Nirei Fukuzumi was not able to come back to the track by himself, his grid position at the qualifying was determined as 18th. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto who was taking a pit stop considered the track condition and picked up new rain tires. The session restarted at 3:37PM and both drivers came back to the track. Though the weather had been forecasted to go from bad to worse, it did not. The track condition got better and better as the water on the track evaporated. #16 Naoki Yamamoto took 12 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:28.530 at the 10th lap and advanced to Q2 with 14th position among 14 cars at Q1.


Toward the Q2 TEAM MUGEN tuned the car of #16 Naoki Yamamoto and got ready for the session. #16 Naoki Yamamoto warmed up the tires and recorded a time of 00:01:27.271 at the 3rd lap in 4th position. At the 4th lap he shortened the time down to 00:01:26.803, but his position went down to 8th. At the 5th lap when he tried a time attack, he recorded a time of 00:01:26.933 and ended up with 10th place and could not advance to Q3.


September 9, 2018 (Sat)


#16 Naoki Yamamoto, 10th place (34 laps / 01:12:09.422 / Best lap: 00:01:32.316)
#15 Nirei Fukuzumi, 18th place (30 laps / 01:03:12.523 / Best lap: 00:01:30.356)


The 30-minute free session was held at 9:00AM on Sunday. It was raining from the morning and the road surface was so wet that both drivers chose the rain tires and entered the track. #15 Nirei Fukuzumi took 8 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:32.674 putting him in 14th place and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 00:01:35.414, 19th place.

Before the race it rained so heavily that there appeared several puddles on the track. Both drivers selected the rain tires. #15 Nirei Fukuzumi took 5 laps and was in 3rd position recording a time of 00:01:30.507 and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 4 laps in 15th position with a time of 00:01:33.432 and each of them got ready for the race at the starting grid.


JRP (Japan Race Promotion Inc.) officials regarded the track condition as quite dangerous one and announced that they would reduce the total laps from 68 to 54, and the maximum race time should be 70 minutes. At the same time starting time was delayed to 2:55PM.

At 2:55PM the race began with a safety car going ahead. But the track condition remained dangerously bad and the race was suspended with a red flag after only 7 laps.

All the participants waited for weather recovery and at 4:10PM the race resumed with again a safety car going ahead. By then the maximum race time was reduced to 51.23 minutes. The safety car went for 12 laps and a green flag was waived. #16 Naoki Yamamoto began the race in 9th position and #15 Nirei Fukuzumi started the race in 18th position, but at 13th lap he moved up to 16th position, at the 14th lap, to 14th position.


#16 Naoki Yamamoto remained in 9th position. #15 Nirei Fukuzumi continued to overtake the cars going ahead and moved up to 13th at the 17th lap, 12th at 20th lap, 11th at the 21st lap. But at the last corner of the 23rd lap when he tried to overtake a car from the outside, the car contacted #15 Nirei Fukuzumi and he spun. Though he was able to come back to the track, his position went down to 15th.

Meanwhile one car stopped on the track and the safety car came out to lead the race till the end of 26th lap. When the race restarted at the 27th lap, #15 Nirei Fukuzumi started to overtake cars ahead. By the end of the 27th lap, he moved up to the 13th position, 12th at the 28th lap, 10th at the 29th lap. On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto moved back to 10th position on the 28th lap, and he let #15 Nirei Fukuzumi go ahead and the position of #16 Naoki Yamamoto went down to 11th.

#15 Nirei Fukuzumi continued to overtake the cars and moved up to 10th position. He further tied to overtake other cars and spun at the Attwood curve and stuck on the middle of the track. Here #15 Nirei Fukuzumi had to withdraw the race and the safety car appeared to pick up his car. Just after then the time had come and the race was led by the safety car and ended with 34 laps. #16 Naoki Yamamoto finished his race in 10th place.


As the result, #16 Naoki Yamamoto could not get any points. But this race could not satisfy 75% of the scheduled total laps, 54, the points provided with the drivers were half of the full points. Now the total points #16 Naoki Yamamoto possesses are 24 and he is ranked in 3rd position 5 points behind the top. The final race, Suzuka will be held on Oct. 27 – 28 and the winner will be granted 3 bonus points. If #16 Naoki Yamamoto gets pole position and wins the race, he will be able to become the series champion on his own.


Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto

Race week ended with no good condition this time. As a driver I should have overcome even such a condition. Since Q1 of the qualifying was not good, we tuned the setting of the car considering Q2. The car condition itself improved, but I could not advance to Q3. Condition of the race was quite tough. Since our fans waited so long in heavy shower, I wanted to show my very best to them. But it was pity that I lost a position in the end instead. Now I have nothing to lose since I stand in a position overtaking the tops rather than being overtaken. The one who wins the final race will become the champion. I change my mind and dare to win the race.


Comments from #15 Nirei Fukuzumi

I simply rushed too much and spun on the middle of the track and my race ended. Since the position of my starting grid was far behind, I could not see ahead and had anxiousness a bit. But once the race started, though in fact I could not see ahead well enough due to heavy rain, I was able to compete in the race with confidence. As I mentioned, in the end I rushed too much and spun on the track. I regretted and was so disappointed. But at least I could find a direction of car setting and my pace itself was good despite driving condition was not good. I will try this weekend as good one for me.


Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

On Friday #16 car and #15 car shared the strategies. #16 was set up based on a long drive considering the race, and #15 was set up for going as fast as possible. But it rained on Saturday then #15 could not try even one set of time attack and went out of the track in the end. In case of #16, we took time to figure out the best direction, however, could not advance to Q3. In the race pace of #16 in the beginning was good, however, after the safety car entered the track, it started to rain heavily and the tires lost grip performance and the pace of the #16 went down.

In case of #15, the brakes got overheated a bit. But at least driving performance of #15 was so energetic that all the team members were so stimulated. I feel sorry for creating the situation in which a safety car appeared and the race came to an end. But at least driving of #15 Nirei Fukuzumi could lead to the next step. #16 Naoki Yamamoto could not get any points. But at the same time his competitors could not get enough points. We will do our best at our favorable circuit, Suzuka to try to grasp championship.