Nick Cassidy has claimed victory from twelfth on the grid in a thrilling opening race of the 2019 Super Formula season at Suzuka.
The New Zealander, driving for Team TOM’s, pitted early on Lap 7, which proved vital in his strategy for taking home the victory in a race featuring multiple Safety Car interruptions.
Many other drivers pitted for the mandatory tyre change on Lap 9 when the Safety Car was bought out for the first time due to Tristian Charpentier in his Real Racing machine spinning into the 130R barriers before being joined in sympathy by Team Impul’s Ryo Hirakawa.
The scramble in the pits became a traffic jam when Hirakawa’s teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi stalled the sister Team Impul entry in the pit lane, blocking a number of rivals from being able to exit the pits themselves. Sekiguchi managed to restart his car and returned to the pits on the next lap before retiring with clutch and gearshift problems.
Kamui Kobayashi, who had opted not to stop, was leading the race in his Team KCMG entry ahead of Super Formula rookie Álex Palou (TCS Nakajima Racing) who was trying his best to pass the former F1 driver. Having posted the fastest race lap of 1:41.057, the Spaniard, however, would suffer a persistent losses of power in his car, making it unlikely he could finish the race. He later pulled his car to the side of the circuit and called it a day.
By Lap 21, Cassidy had fought his way to second place, with the 2018 champion Naoki Yamamoto (Team Dandelion Racing) hot on his heels third. Behind them was a tense battle for fourth between pole-sitter Tadasuke Makino (TCS Nakajima Racing), Tomoki Nojiri (Team Mugen) and Kenta Yamashita (Kondō Racing).
On Lap 27, Makino’s race came to a frightening end when his right rear wheel failed as he exited the Spoon Curve, sending him spearing into the barriers at the exit of the left-hander. Fortunately the former Formula 2 Championship driver was unhurt.
His accident brought out the race’s third Safety Car appearance. Victory for Kobayashi was looking more and more unlikely as he couldn’t build a big enough lead to complete the his required tyre change and still hold the podium, and having used all of his OTS (Over-Take System) boost in Laps 21-27 to hold off Cassidy, he was all out of options.
Kobayashi finally pitted on Lap 41 of 43, handing the victory over to Cassidy, who led for the final 3 laps of the race to claim his second Super Formula career victory. It was an amazing effort from Cassidy and Team TOM’S considering where they had qualified.
Completing the podium were Yamamoto and Yamashita, with the remaining points’ finishers being Nojiri, Kazuya Oshima (Team LeMans), Sho Tsuboi (cerumo・INGING), Yuji Kunimoto (Kondō Racing) and Lucas Auer (B-MAX / Motopark). Oshima was subsequently awarded a 30-second post-race penalty, demoting him to twelfth, moving Tsuboi, Kunimoto and Auer up a place each and promoting Dan Ticktum (Team Mugen) into eighth.
The second round of the 2019 Super Formula Championship takes place on the weekend of 18-19 May at the Autopolis circuit.
|2019 Super Formula Championship Suzuka Race 1 – Final Classification|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Nick Cassidy||Vantelin Team TOM’S||43||1:28:21.635||10|
|2.||Naoki Yamamoto||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||43||+ 1.749||8|
|3.||Kenta Yamashita||Kondō Racing||43||+ 2.399||6|
|4.||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||43||+ 8.265||5|
|5.||Sho Tsuboi||JMS P.mu/cerumo・INGING||43||+ 10.522||4|
|6.||Yuji Kunimoto||Kondō Racing||43||+ 10.825||3|
|7.||Lucas Auer||B-MAX with Motopark||43||+ 13.989||2|
|8.||Dan Ticktum||Team Mugen||43||+ 15.097||1|
|9.||Kamui Kobayashi||Carrozzeria Team KCMG||43||+ 30.912|
|10.||Artem Markelov||UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans||43||+ 37.082|
|11.||Nireo Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||43||+ 37.977|
|12.||Kazuya Oshima||UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans||43||+ 39.057|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Tadasuke Makino||TCS Nakajima Racing||26||Wheel||1|
|DNF.||Álex Palou||TCS Nakajima Racing||17||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Hiroaki Ishiura||JMS P.mu/cerumo・INGING||15||Clutch|
|DNF.||Kazuki Nakajima||Vantelin Team TOM’S||14||Spin|
|DNF.||Harrison Newey||B-MAX with Motopark||14||Spin|
|DNF.||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Itochu Enex Team Impul||10||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Ryo Hirakawa||Itochu Enex Team Impul||7||Accident|
|DNF.||Tristan Charpentier||Real Racing||7||Accident|
Post Race Penalties:
- Kazuya Oshima – who provisionally finished in 5th place – was issued a 30-second post-race time penalty for overtaking under Full Course Yellow conditions.
- Championship points are awarded on the results of the race to the top-eight finishers on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Tadasuke Makino earned 1 bonus championship point for securing pole position.
Images via Motorsport.com and Nick Cassidy