Autopolis Super Formula: Fukuzumi fastest in practice

Autopolis Super Formula: Fukuzumi fastest in practice


Dandelion Honda driver Nirei Fukuzumi concluded the opening day of practice for this weekend’s Autopolis Super Formula round quickest, as the previous lap record at the circuit was smashed.

Fresh from his first win in SUPER GT’s top class at Motegi last weekend, Fukuzumi posted a 1m24.450s in the final minutes of the hour-long afternoon session at Autopolis to top the times by 0.162s ahead of championship leader Ryo Hirakawa.

Okayama race winner Sho Tsuboi had topped the morning’s running with a 1m24.714s, which blew away the previous benchmark set by Kamui Kobayashi during qualifying in 2018 – when the previous-generation SF14 car was still in use.

Tsuboi’s time went unchallenged for the bulk of the afternoon session, only falling after a late red flag period caused by two-time champion Naoki Yamamoto parking up his Dandelion machine at Turn 5 with a mechanical problem.

With two minutes left on the clock, Impul man Hirakawa was first to go faster than Tsuboi with a 1m24.612s, but that was soon bettered by Fukuzumi’s final flyer.

Inging driver Tsuboi managed to improve on his morning time with a 1m24.645s, but fell 0.195s shy of Fukuzumi.


Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Three more Honda-powered drivers completed the top five, with Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing) taking fourth ahead of Tomoki Nojiri (Team Mugen) and Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima).

Ritomo Miyata, deputising for the absent Kazuki Nakajima at TOM’S, was second-fastest behind Tsuboi in the morning but didn’t improve in the afternoon, ending up seventh overall, ahead of Kondo Racing’s Sacha Fenestraz.

In his first Super Formula race weekend since the 2018 Suzuka finale, Nobuharu Matsushita was ninth-fastest for B-Max Racing ahead of Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG).

Yamamoto ended up 13th on the combined timesheets on the strength of his morning effort, one place ahead of reigning champion Nick Cassidy (TOM’S).

Last year’s Autopolis winner Yuhi Sekiguchi’s struggles continued in 17th place, one place behind series debutant Charles Milesi (B-Max), while returnee Tatiana Calderon (Drago Corse) propped up the timesheets in 20th place overall.

Qualifying groups determined

As per the first three races of the season, the drivers will be split between two groups in Q1 on Sunday morning, collectively fighting over 14 spots in Q2. The seven fastest drivers out of the 10 in each group will progress to Q2.

Group A: Nick Cassidy, Sacha Fenestraz, Nirei Fukuzumi, Yuichi Nakayama, Tatiana Calderon, Tomoki Nojiri, Yuki Sekiguchi, Hiroaki Ishiura, Nobuharu Matsushita, Tadasuke Makino.

Group B: Kenta Yamashita, Naoki Yamamoto, Kazuya Oshima, Ukyo Sasahara, Yuji Kunimoto, Ryo Hirakawa, Ritomo Miyata, Sho Tsuboi, Charles Milesi, Toshiki Oyu.

Practice results (afternoon session only):

16 Nirei FukuzumiDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1’24.450  
220 Ryo HirakawaITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1’24.612 0.162
339 Sho TsuboiJMS 1’24.645 0.195
464 Tadasuke MakinoTCS Nakajima Racing 1’24.874 0.424
516 Tomoki NojiriTeam Mugen 1’24.879 0.429
665 Toshiki OyuTCS Nakajima Racing 1’24.890 0.440
74 Sacha FenestrazKondo Racing 1’25.001 0.551
836 Ritomo MiyataVantelin Team TOM’S 1’25.035 0.585
950 Nobuharu MatsushitaBuzz Racing with B-Max 1’25.111 0.661
103 Kenta YamashitaKondo Racing 1’25.151 0.701
1118 Yuji Kunimotocarrozzeria Team KCMG 1’25.275 0.825
1215 Ukyo SasaharaTeam Mugen 1’25.322 0.872
131 Nick CassidyVantelin Team TOM’S 1’25.678 1.228
1438 Hiroaki IshiuraJMS 1’25.719 1.269
1551 Charles MilesiBuzz Racing with B-Max 1’25.764 1.314
1619 Yuhi SekiguchiITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL 1’25.846 1.396
177 Yuichi Nakayamacarrozzeria Team KCMG 1’26.155 1.705
1814 Kazuya OshimaROOKIE Racing 1’26.691 2.241
1912 Tatiana CalderonThreeBond Drago CORSE 1’27.242 2.792
205 Naoki YamamotoDoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1’28.132 3.682
View full results

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