Nick Cassidy took an unlikely race win from 12th on the grid, in a hectic race which saw four Safety Car periods.
Tadasuke Makino got a good start from pole, whilst team-mate Alex Palou lost second place to Naoki Yamamoto.
The Spaniard immediately made up for lost time and reclaimed the position from Yamamoto at the beginning of Lap 2.
Yamamoto then lost third place to Yuhi Sekiguchi, after the latter executed a brave move around the outside of 130R.
Sekiguchi’s team-mate Ryo Hirakawa subsequently took fourth after Yamamoto got a slow exit out the Casio chicane.
At the front, Palou had caught up to Makino and the pair started to control their pace.
Carnage at 130R
Palou then had to serve a drive through penalty as his mechanics were on the grid 15 seconds before the formation lap.
Then, Hirakawa crashed heavily at 130R, whilst rookie Tristan Charpentier had also stopped at the corner in a separate incident.
As a result, the safety car was deployed and caused pandemonium in the pit lane as many drivers changed tyres.
Sekiguchi stopped during his pit exit and retired at the end of the following lap after a loss of drive.
Kamui Kobayashi was in first, with Yuji Kunimoto in second and Palou in third; neither of whom had made their stops.
Cassidy begins recovery drive
When the racing resumed, and Kobayashi got a great start to maintain his advantage, while Nick Cassidy took fourth place from Makino.
The Kiwi then passed Kunimoto at 130R for third place.
Behind him, Yamamoto was making progress and went down the inside of Makino at the chicane to take fifth place.
Shortly after, Yamamoto went around the outside of Kunimoto to move up to fourth.
At the Dagners, Kazuki Nakajima spun off and kicked up dust at the corner.
This caused an unsighted Harrison Newey to go wide and beach his car in the gravel trap.
Because of this, the Safety Car made its second appearance of the race.
Hiroaki Ishiura was the next to retire, as he failed to get going after making his second stop under the Safety Car.
No luck for Palou and Makino; More Safety Cars
On Lap 18 the race restarted, and Palou challenged Kobayashi for the race but was unable to get past.
Whilst negotiating the esses, Palou suddenly lost drive and grinded to a halt on the side of the track.
As the marshals were unable to recover his car, the Safety Car was brought out once again.
When green flag conditions were restored, Kobayashi got another great start to lead ahead of Cassidy, Yamamoto, Makino and Tomoki Nojiri.
Nojiri then lost fifth place to Kenta Yamashita and had to instantly defend sixth from Kazuya Oshima.
Kobayashi then began to pull a four second lead on Cassidy.
In the battle for fourth place, Yamashita attempted to pass Makino around the outside of Turn 1 on Lap 27.
However, on the exit of the Spoon Curve, a loose wheel nut on the rear-right tyre sent Makino into the barriers.
Unsurprisingly, the Safety Car was deployed once again and saw Kunimoto make his compulsory stop.
In contrast, the KCMG pit crew opted to leave Kobayashi out on track in the lead.
Pit Strategy doesn’t pay off for Kobayashi
With 12 Laps to go, the race restarted and Kobayashi once again got a good start and led proceedings.
The former F1 driver managed to set a gap of 11 seconds before finally pitting on the final lap.
This handed an unlikely race win to Nick Cassidy, who had struggled all weekend with setup issues.
Relief, but a long way to go for Team TOM’s
“Anything is possible in Super Formula, [but] you have to keep pushing.”
“This weekend has been very tough for us, because I think we’ve been one of the strongest [teams] in testing and this weekend we’ve lost some performance.”
“So, I think at the next round we can come back for speed and this weekend we got the perfect [amount of] points, so a great start.”
Behind him, Yamamoto held off a late challenge from Yamashita to finish second, with Nojiri a couple of seconds down the road in fourth place.
Behind them, Oshima claimed fifth place ahead of Sho Tsuboi, while Kunimoto recovered to seventh and Lucas Auer claimed the last points playing position in eighth.
2019 Super Formula Championship Classification – Round One, Suzuka
|Pos.||Driver (Nationality), Team (Engine)||Time|
|1||Nick Cassidy (NZL), Valentin Team TOM’s (Toyota)||43 Laps|
|2||Naoki Yamamoto (JPN), Docomo Team Dandelion Racing (Honda)||+1.749|
|3||Kenta Yamashita (JPN), Kondo Racing (Toyota)||+2.399|
|4||Tomoki Nojiri (JPN), Team Mugen (Honda)||+8.265|
|5||Kazuya Oshima (JPN), SUNOCO Team Le Mans (Toyota)||+9.057|
|6||Sho Tsuboi (JPN), JMS P.MU/CERUMO – INGING (Toyota)||+10.522|
|7||Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), Kondo Racing (Toyota)||+10.825|
|8||Lucas Auer (AUT), B-Max Racing with Motopark||+13.989|
|9||Dan Ticktum (GBR), Team Mugen (Honda)||+15.097|
|10||Kamui Kobayashi (JPN), carrozzeria Team KCMG (Toyota)||+30.912|
|11||Artem Markelov (RUS), SUNOCO Team Le Mans (Toyota)||+37.082|
|12||Nirei Fukuzumi (JPN), Docomo Team Dandelion Racing||+37.977|
|Tadasuke Makino (JPN), TCS Nakajima Racing (Honda)||Loose Wheel Bearing|
|Alex Palou (ESP), TCS Nakajima Racing (Honda)||Loss of Drive|
|Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), JMS P.MU/CERUMO – INGING (Toyota)||Throttle|
|Harrison Newey (GBR), B-Max Racing with Motopark (Honda)||Spun Off|
|Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), Valentin Team TOM’s (Toyota)||Spun Off|
|Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN), Itochu Enex Impul Team (Toyota)||Throttle Issue|
|Ryo Hirakawa (JPN), Itochu Enex Impul Team (Toyota)||Crashed|
|Tristan Charpentier (FRA), Real Racing (Honda)||Retired|