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“Motorsport Diaries: Episode 11 – Super Formula Returns”

September 3, 2020
Following a ten-month break, Japan’s Super Formula finally returned in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The race at Motegi was not a thriller than desired, but that was not the important story. That it was back, was.

For quite a long time, this race was very much a case of follow-the-leader. These kinds of events make for a difficult time in commentary and it is often when one most utilises the best of pre-race research.

Beyond the start, viewers had to wait until lap 16 for the first overtake of the race when Nirei Fukuzumi took Kamui Kobayashi for 6th place, as the latter began to struggle on his Yokohama tyres.

To be fair, the race did kind of become a tale of who could make the tyres last in what were some pretty extreme temperatures. With an air temperature measured at approximately 40C and a track temperature several degrees hotter still, the drivers had their work cut out to maintain tyre life.

And so, for the most part, the race became a story of tyre preservation. Portions of the race saw the collective field record laptimes in the 1’38” measure, after qualifying some seven seconds per lap quicker just three hours earlier.

That is something that can be worked on and given the acknowledgement of the fluidity of the Coronavirus pandemic, JRP – promoters of Super Formula – have left a window open to tweak the sporting regulations should they see fit.

The important aspect is that Super Formula is finally back. The numerous changes from last year were almost overshadowed by the air of uncertainty in recent weeks, but with strength in the organisation clear, the series still managed to present eighteen cars for the first race.

And that would have been nineteen had Teppei Natori not suffered from heat exhaustion after qualifying, forcing his withdrawal from the race itself.

There were some brilliant performances from the likes of Ryo Hirakawa, Kenta Yamashita and French/Argentine rookie Sacha Fenestraz, while Ukyo Sasahara also made a good impression as he replaced the absent Jüri Vips.

But a difficult weekend if you were behind the wheel of a Honda-powered machine. Honda only managed to get one car into Q3 and their highest finisher (Fukuzumi) was 5th. His late charge came to nothing, although the gap had much to do with the number of laps he had been stuck behind Sekiguchi.

Sam Collins and I commentated on the season opener for The Race and we will return for the 2nd Super Formula event at Okayama on September 27th.

For more of my thoughts on the first Super Formula race of 2020, check out Episode 11 of Motorsport Diaries and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe for more of this in the future.

A Patreon page for TheMotorsportArchive will be officially launched soon, as plans for 2021 slowly, but surely come together.

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