Super Formula: Sportsland SUGO Preview

The start of the 2018 Super Formula race at Sportsland SUGO. © Japan Race Promotion Inc.

Sportsland SUGO will host the third round of the 2019 Super Formula Championship this weekend.

The circuit has a mix of slow, downhill corners and fast, uphill sweeping bends, and is a favourite amongst the drivers and fans.

The main taking point of the track is the uphill, 110R corner. Situated on the final corner, a good exit is key to creating overtaking opportunities down the pit straight and into Turn 1.

In last year’s race, championship leader Naoki Yamamoto took the chequered flag at Sportsland SUGO for Team Mugen.

To date, this is Yamamoto’s only Super Formula win to have occurred outside of Suzuka.

Wet Weather Qualifying Causes Driver Backlash

Team Mugen driver Dan Ticktum described qualifying in Autopolis as a “bit of nonsense.” © Dutch Photo Agency/Red Bull Content Pool

After heavy rainfall effected qualifying format last time out in Autopolis, several drivers have expressed signs of frustration.

Super Formula Organisers Japan Race Promotion (JRP) were forced to abandon F1-style qualifying, as the conditions were deemed unsafe.

Instead, a 40 minute qualifying session was held in place of a practice session on Sunday morning.

However, with heavy rain still present, chaos would ensue.

As a result, numerous interruptions were caused, with three red flag incident and additional yellow flags across the track.

Consequently, only 11 of the 20 drivers set a time within the 107% rule.

Drivers Demand Changes from Organisers

Naoki Yamamoto believes smoother organisation in wet conditions are needed for the series. © Japan Race Promotion Inc.

Defending champion Naoki Yamamoto was one of those drivers who failed to make the cut.

He explained to why the series should develop new procedures for these challenging circumstances:

“I feel that we need to re-evaluate the way the race is run and run again [in the future in similar circumstances],” Yamamoto said.

“That’s not to say I’m criticising JRP. I think given the conditions, it’s easy to say from the outside, but people who actually [handle the race operations], I think it was very hard [for them] and the judgement was also very hard.”

“I think this was a good experience, so when such a situation happens again, I think it would be necessary to re-evaluate what to do next.”

Yuhi Sekiguchi – who went on to win in Autopolis from 16th on the grid – was another raise concerns:

“In the qualifying session, I couldn’t really attack for a single lap,” Sekiguchi admitted.

“[It was frustrating in] qualifying without being able to run at the original speed for one lap even with 40 minutes.

“This is my first time to be honest and there were too many risks. It’s also important to say ‘luck is one of our strengths’, but I think it’s because I was a little too biased towards [luck] and I actually felt it.”

“I think it would be a good idea to talk with everyone and change the rules so that everyone can be satisfied with it, as Yamamoto said.”

Winless Yamamoto on Top; Cassidy still in Championship Contention

The start of the 2019 Super Formula season has been an eye opener for Nick Cassidy. © Japan Race Promotion Inc.

Although he is yet to win a race this year, Naoki Yamamoto is currently first in the Drivers’ Standings.

Consistency from a pair of second place finishes leaves the Japanese driver on top with 16 points.

After his win in Suzuka, Nick Cassidy stated that Team TOM’s had a lot of work to remain competitive this season.

These concerns were highlighted in Autopolis, as the Kiwi struggled with race pace and tyre wear throughout.

Despite a late engine problem, Cassidy managed to claim the last point in eighth place. Subsequently, he has dropped to second in the championship on 11 points.

Yuhi Sekiguchi’s win moves him a point behind in third place, while Kenta Yamashita is in fourth on eight points.

You can watch the action live on and on the Lets Go Racing YouTube channel.

At the time of press, the race is scheduled to get underway at 2:20 pm local time (6:20 am BST).