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Kobayashi concerned by KCMG's "terrible" Suzuka pace

Kamui Kobayashi admits that a woeful lack of pace in last weekend's Suzuka Super Formula round has left him concerned about his prospects for the rest of the season.

Kamui Kobayashi, Kids com Team KCMG

The ex-Formula 1 driver came home 14th at the end of a tough third round of the season, two places ahead of KCMG team-mate Yuji Kunimoto.

Both KCMG drivers had set encouraging times upon Super Formula's visit to Suzuka in early March for pre-season testing, with Kobayashi even going quickest of all on the second day of running.

Against the backdrop of KCMG strengthening its structure ahead of the 2023 campaign, it had raised hopes that Kobayashi might finally be able to take a breakthrough first victory in his seventh season with the team.

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But after an encouraging run to sixth in the second race at Fuji, Kobayashi said the Hong Kong-owned squad was simply unable to replicate any of the promise it showed in the winter in warmer conditions.

"There is nothing to say, we are just slow," he told Motorsport.com. "I had no chance to improve my position.

"We have to improve the car. Now we are struggling when the temperatures get high and we don’t know why.

"We are very concerned about the pace this weekend. The first round at Fuji the pace was good, but this time it looks really terrible. That’s the situation."

Most Super Formula starts with no wins (1996-):

Pos. Driver Starts Years active
1 Japan Ryo Michigami 74 1997-2006
2 Japan Takeshi Tsuchiya 69 2000-2008
3 Japan Hideki Noda 67 1998-2005
4 Japan Tetsuji Tamanaka 56 1996-2001
=5 Germany Michael Krumm 55 1996-2007
=5 Japan Kamui Kobayashi 55 2015-

Kobayashi was condemned to a back-row start after losing his best lap in Q1 for cutting the chicane, and made little progress in the opening stint before clearing his mandatory tyre change when the window opened on lap 10.

Still stuck at the rear of the field, Kobayashi opted to come in to change tyres for a second time when the safety car was deployed following the incident involving Tomoki Nojiri and Toshiki Oyu, allowing him to gain places at the expense of cars on older rubber in the closing stages.

Asked if his lack of pace at Suzuka came as a surprise considering the team's positive pre-season test, Kobayashi replied: "Yeah… I mean, I didn’t do any long runs [in the test], but I expected a bit better because the long runs at Fuji were good. Here, no way."

Kunimoto meanwhile revealed that he abandoned plans to run long in the race when he came in on lap 12 for his mandatory stop.

"I was able to make up some places at the start, but after that the pace was very bad," reported the 2016 champion. "Our plan was to pass cars in the opening half of the race and stay out longer, but we ended up pitting earlier than we planned. The pace remained poor and it was a tough race."

Despite KCMG's disastrous lack of form at Suzuka, Kobayashi says he isn't ready to give up on his long-standing ambition of a first Super Formula win in 2023.

"We’ll try our best, honestly," said the 36-year-old. "It’s only the second event of the season, so we have to keep pushing and we’ll see."

 

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