Suzuka Super Formula: Hirakawa leads Nojiri in practice

Super Formula points leader Ryo Hirakawa set the pace in practice for this weekend’s Suzuka double-header with a new lap record around the Japanese Grand Prix venue.

Fresh off his heartbreaking defeat in last weekend’s SUPER GT title decider at Fuji Speedway, Impul Toyota man Hirakawa pace with five minutes left of Friday’s second practice session, setting a time of 1m35.648s.

That was more than two tenths underneath the existing lap record set by Kazuki Nakajima back in 2017, and faster than Kamui Kobayashi’s session-topping effort from first practice.

KCMG driver Kobayashi, who missed the previous race at Autopolis owing to his Toyota FIA World Endurance Championship commitments, beat Tomoki Nojiri (Mugen) to the top spot in the morning session by just 0.033s with his lap of 1m35.962s.

Kamui Kobayashi(carrozzeria Team KCMG)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Kobayashi’s time stood as the benchmark until a late flurry of new-tyre runs in the final 10 minutes of the day, as Nojiri improved to a 1m35.941s to move up to second overall.

Third-fastest in the morning and fourth overall was Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Honda), who took SUPER GT title honours alongside Naoki Yamamoto last weekend.

Yamamoto (Dandelion Racing) was next up, third-fastest in the afternoon and fifth for the day, followed by TOM’S driver Nakajima, also back after a race out.

Hirakawa’s Impul teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi was seventh-fastest, followed by reigning champion Nick Cassidy (TOM’S) – back in Japan after his Formula E testing duties – Yuji Kunimoto in the second KCMG car and Okayama race winner Sho Tsuboi (Inging).

Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) was fourth-fastest in the morning, but such were the improvements that he slumped to 11th overall in the afternoon.

B-Max Racing’s Nobuharu Matsushita, replacing Sergio Sette Camara for the rest of the season, had a low-key day of running on his way to 18th behind teammate Charles Milesi, who caused the only red flag of the day early in first practice with an off at Turn 1.

Tatiana Calderon (Drago Corse) propped up the field on her first visit to Suzuka in 20th.

FP1 results:

17 Kamui Kobayashicarrozzeria Team KCMG 1’35.962  
216 Tomoki NojiriTeam Mugen 1’35.995 0.033
364 Tadasuke MakinoTCS Nakajima Racing 1’36.007 0.045
43 Kenta YamashitaKondo Racing 1’36.441 0.479
520 Ryo HirakawaITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1’36.535 0.573
65 Naoki YamamotoDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1’36.699 0.737
718 Yuji Kunimotocarrozzeria Team KCMG 1’36.768 0.806
815 Ukyo SasaharaTeam Mugen 1’37.086 1.124
914 Kazuya OshimaROOKIE Racing 1’37.307 1.345
101 Nick CassidyVantelin Team TOM’S 1’37.456 1.494
View full results

FP2 results:

120 Ryo HirakawaITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1’35.648  
25 Naoki YamamotoDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1’36.027 0.379
336 Kazuki NakajimaVantelin Team TOM’S 1’36.034 0.386
419 Yuhi SekiguchiITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1’36.036 0.388
518 Yuji Kunimotocarrozzeria Team KCMG 1’36.179 0.531
664 Tadasuke MakinoTCS Nakajima Racing 1’36.287 0.639
739 Sho TsuboiJMS 1’36.393 0.745
84 Sacha FenestrazKondo Racing 1’36.490 0.842
915 Ukyo SasaharaTeam Mugen 1’36.812 1.164
1038 Hiroaki IshiuraJMS 1’37.198 1.550
View full results

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