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Race report

Motegi Super Formula: Nojiri wins, Lawson 13th after first-lap chaos

Tomoki Nojiri put himself in the thick of the Super Formula title battle with victory at Motegi, as Liam Lawson ended up out of the points in 13th following a spin that triggered a first-lap pile-up and red flag.

Red Bull junior Lawson spun on the opening lap after running wide at the exit of Turn 2 while battling with Nojiri for the lead, with Tadasuke Makino and Yuhi Sekiguchi both going airborne in the ensuing mayhem.

Although the Mugen team was able to repair Lawson's damaged car during the red flags and send him back out on track, he rejoined the field in last place, with a drive-through penalty for working under the intervention dealing further damage to his hopes of a recovery.

Lawson eventually finished the race down in 13th, while Nojiri was relatively unchallenged out front, beating nearest rival Ryo Hirakawa by 7.4 seconds.

The result gives Ritomo Miyata, who finished fourth, an eight-point lead over Lawson in the standings, with Nojiri a further two points adrift in third heading into the final races at Suzuka in October.


Story of the race

Polesitter Nojiri faced a stern challenge from Mugen team-mate Lawson at the start, with the Kiwi having jumped to second after front-row starter Kakunoshin Ota stalled on the grid.

As they approached Turn 2 side-by-side, Lawson ran out of room and went wide over the kerbs at the exit of the corner, losing control and spinning back on the circuit.

With little time to react, both Makino (Dandelion) and Sekiguchi (Impul) collided with Lawson, with the high-speed impact sending their cars airborne. Nobuharu Matsushita (B-Max) was also involved in the melee, as his attempt to move to the right to avoid the incident backfired.

The red flag was immediately deployed, with images showing Sekiguchi’s car landing upside down at the right-hand side of the track. 

Sekiguchi, Makino and Matsushita were all out on the spot, but Lawson was incredibly able to get his hobbled car back into the pits, where the Mugen mechanics began working on it under the red flag.

Incredibly, the car was repaired in time for the restart, allowing Lawson to rejoin from the pitlane.

When the race got underway again after two laps behind the safety car, Nojiri held on to the lead, with Toshiki Oyu holding second for TGM after taking advantage of the first-lap chaos to move up from fourth on the grid.

Oyu pitted at the first opportunity on lap 10 to get his mandatory stop out of the way, while brief spots of rain prompted Nojiri to stay out on track until longer.

Ultimately, the rain never materialised and Nojiri dived into the pits on lap 26, rejoining the track comfortably ahead of his nearest rival Oyu.

From there on, the only obstacle in Nojiri’s way was Impul driver Hirakawa, who had been circulating just a few seconds behind him before his pitstop and had a chance to overcut him while he circulated the track on cold tyres.

But the Impul team mechanics struggled to put on the right-rear tyre on Hirakawa’s car, with his stop clocking at 9.4s compared to 7.2s for Nojiri.

That allowed Nojiri to hold on to the lead and cruise to his second victory of the season, with Hirakawa passing Oyu for second on lap 33 of 37.

Hirakawa also survived a half-spin on his way to second after Naoki Yamamoto had tried to pass him at Turn 11 in an incident that caused terminal damage to the Nakajima Racing driver’s car.

Fourth place went to TOM’S driver Miyata, who put in a heroic drive after dropping to the rear of the field with a stall at the original start.

Sena Sakaguchi finished fifth for Inging, while Kondo Racing’s Kazuto Kotaka was sixth despite a late tangle with KCMG driver Kamui Kobayashi, who lost time with an excruciatingly slow pitstop on lap 12.

Completing the points scorers were Kazuya Oshima (Rookie Racing), Kenta Yamashita (Kondo) and Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG).

Lawson passed Nirei Fukuzumi on the final lap for 13th, the worst result of his brief Super Formula career so far.

Ota was another non-finisher after a pitlane incident with Ren Sato (Nakajima), while Sho Tsuboi was another early retiree after his Inging machine slowed on track soon after the restart.

Race results:

 Cla   Nº   Driver  Team Gap
1 Tomoki Nojiri Mugen  
2 20  Ryo Hirakawa Impul 7.439
3 53  Toshiki Oyu TGM 15.456
4 37  Ritomo Miyata TOM'S 15.933
5 39  Sena Sakaguchi Inging 32.873
6 Kazuto Kotaka Kondo 36.302
7 Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 36.772
8 14  Kazuya Oshima Rookie 38.148
9 Kenta Yamashita Kondo 38.752
10 18  Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 40.229
11 55  Cem Bölükbaşi TGM 41.653
12 36  Ukyo Sasahara TOM'S 1'01.366
13 15  Liam Lawson Mugen 1'04.340
14 12  Nirei Fukuzumi ThreeBond 1'05.577
15 51  Raoul Hyman B-Max 1'19.994
16 65  Ren Sato Nakajima 2 laps /1'12.361
  64  Naoki Yamamoto Nakajima Retirement
  Kakunoshin Ota Dandelion Retirement
  38  Sho Tsuboi Inging Retirement
  19  Yuhi Sekiguchi Impul Retirement
  Tadasuke Makino Dandelion Retirement
  50  N.Matsushita B-Max Retirement

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