How Goh’s left-field pick earned his Super Formula chance
Few fans outside of Japan are likely to have heard of Atsushi Miyake, Team Goh’s pick for its second Super Formula seat. That might be partly because of his somewhat unconventional path since being dumped by Honda two years ago.
As announced last week, Miyake and Honda junior Ren Sato will form an all-rookie line-up at Goh as the Servus Japan-run team splits from Team Mugen and sets up on its own for the 2022 campaign.
There’s a certain irony in the two youngsters being paired up, as Miyake can justifiably point the finger at his new teammate for losing his Honda backing at the end of 2019.
That’s because Sato completely dominated that year’s Japanese Formula 4 season, winning 11 out of 14 races – and that’s despite not being a fully-paid up Honda junior at the time. Miyake had that status, having been the chief graduate from the marque’s Suzuka Racing School in 2018, but managed just a single win, ending up a distant second overall.
It meant Sato got the chance to go to Europe and race in French F4 the following season along with 2019 SRS scholar Ayumu Iwasa, while Miyake was shown the door by Honda.
“There were some races that I got pole, but always I messed up the start and I dropped to second, so I couldn’t win any of them,” Miyake reflected in an interview with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition last year.
“I couldn’t make the most of my chances because of my own mistakes, so I don’t think It was a surprise that I got dropped.”
And so, at the end of 2019, things looked fairly bleak for Miyake. Luckily for him though, his exploits at the SRS in 2018 – when he beat current Honda juniors Kakunoshin Ota and Iori Kimura, among others – had not been entirely forgotten.
Sometime Nissan JGTC driver Tetsuya Tanaka was also an instructor at SRS for many years, and it just so happened that the final graduate he oversaw before his departure was none other than Miyake. And in another stroke of luck, he had been appointed team director of Max Racing for its step up from Super Taikyu to SUPER GT’s GT300 class in 2020.
Speaking to Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition last year, Tanaka recalls: “At the time the owner [gentleman racer ‘Go Max’] started the team, he said he wanted to hire a driver with potential but who hadn’t had been given a proper chance.
“At the same time, Miyake was second in F4 but we heard he had lost his Honda backing and that he had no drive. Both of us thought, ‘no, that kid can do it’, so we chose him.”
Miyake was partnered by Rintaro Kubo for the team’s first season aboard the uncompetitive Lexus RC F GT3, the pair failing to score points, but the team’s fortunes improved markedly when it switched to the GR Supra for 2021.
Kubo was also replaced by Yuui Tsutsumi, who along with Miyake finished a strong fifth overall in the super-competitive GT300 class, claiming the team’s first SUPER GT victory in the sweltering mid-summer heat of Suzuka.
That wasn’t the only time that Miyake would stand atop the podium in 2021, as by then he had already notched up two wins in Super Formula Lights driving for the minnow Rn-sports team: one in the damp at Fuji Speedway and then again in awful conditions at Autopolis.
Indeed, Miyake also had Max Racing to thank for the chance to resume his single-seater career. In the 2020 post-season test at Fuji, Miyake set the second-fastest time, behind only that year’s champion Ritomo Miyata, convincing ‘Go Max’ to fund Miyake for a full season. As Tanaka said: “If he had been slow [in the test] he wouldn’t have had the chance.”
With his Dallara-Spiess decked out in the same white-and-orange colours as his SUPER GT mount, Miyake finished up fourth overall in Lights behind Teppei Natori, Giuliano Alesi and old sparring partner Sato.
Those results had put him back on the radar for a future in Japan’s two biggest categories, Super Formula and SUPER GT. In early December, Miyake was invited to test the Nissan GT-R GT500 in the marque’s end-of-season 'audition' at Fuji, and not long after that, Miyake was on his way to Suzuka to drive for KCMG in Super Formula’s post-season rookie test.
And while KCMG wasn’t able to offer Miyake a race drive, with Toyota pair Yuji Kunimoto and Kamui Kobayashi keeping their seats at the team, the 22-year-old had done enough to get himself on the radar of Team Goh for its second seat.
Miyake will combine a rookie season for Honda-powered team Goh in Super Formula with a third campaign in SUPER GT aboard Max Racing’s GR Supra, giving him a foot in two of the three manufacturer camps. Nissan showed interest by inviting Miyake to its driver audition test in December, too.
If the results keep coming, then it’s surely only a matter of time before progressing to the status of a fully-fledged manufacturer driver.
“I don’t think the manufacturers will ignore a really fast driver,” says Tanaka. “I think if they are fast, chances will come along, so I want to create a team that can offer such chances.
“Because he lost his scholarship, it’s difficult for him to get back there. He’s dropped off the ‘elite’ path. But because he’s a talented driver, we thought it would be interesting if he was to drive for a privateer team like us and beat the drivers who are still in the scholarship.
“It’s really fun and rewarding for us. It would be great for us if he can show his strength and feel, ‘actually, having those regrets was a good thing’.”
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