The third round of the 2019 Super Formula season is set to get underway this weekend at Sportsland Sugo. Can Naoki Yamamoto continue to hold the championship lead, will Nick Cassidy take first place off his hands?

The Circuit

Sportsland Sugo

Sportsland Sugo – Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
Circuit Length 3.737 km / 2.323 mi Opened 1975
Lap Record ? Direction Clockwise

Sportsland Sugo was opened in 1975 by the Yamaha Motor Company as a multipurpose facility. Whilst it originally focused on a much wider range of sports, hosting tennis, football and swimming events, the venue focuses mainly on motorsport and tennis today.

The track features two layouts for both car and motorcycle racing, with the difference being the inclusion of a chicane on the final corner on the motorcycle variant. The circuit features two prominent straights, the first being after the ‘rainbow corner’ (the Turns 7-8 double right-hander) and the second being where the starting grid is positioned.

The circuit once held international events, hosting the World Superbike championship from 1988 until 2003. Currently it has reverted to national level events, but does host the All Japan Road Race Championship, Japan’s premier motorcycle series, as well as Super Formula and Super GT championships, both of which you can catch here of MotorsportM8.

The Event

2019 Super Formula Championship Sugo – 21-23 June 2019
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 12:40 Free Practice Session 2
Sat 09:00
Qualifying Session Sat 13:20 Race (68 laps) Sun 14:20-16:00

All session times quoted in Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 9:00)

The Sugo Form Guide

After obtaining second in the first two rounds of the 2019 season, Naoki Yamamoto comes into Round 3 in the lead of the Drivers’ Championship with 16 points. Close behind is Nick Cassidy, who after a win at Suzuka and a DNF at Autopolis, sits in second place with 11 points.

Both drivers are in strong contention to win the championship this year, so we should expect fierce racing from the pair throughout the season. Elsewhere in motorsport, Super Formula regulars Kazuki Nakajima and Kamui Kobayashi bought home a 1-2 result for Toyota in the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the FIA World Endurance Championship and both drivers will be hoping to carry over that success into Super Formula this weekend.

Sugo presents a unique challenge for drivers this season as it is the first time the Sugo race has been held in the summer months since 1996, which is ironically the rainy season in Miyagi. We may well see the weather play a factor this weekend – wet weather is forecast this weekend – which could lead to repeat of last year’s race where both Cassidy and Yamamoto pitted under an early Safety Car and used that to gain an incredible number of places to finish first and second respectively.

Sugo’s short and tight layout doesn’t allow for a lot of overtaking like the previous two venues of Suzuka and Autopolis. There are only a select number of places on the circuit where drivers can overtake, which will make it critical for the drivers to perform well in qualifying.

Given its 1970s vintage, Sportsland Sugo’s design and geographic location didn’t allow for very many run-off areas when designing the circuit. This ‘old school layout makes for tight corners with limited run-off that will see mistakes punished. An added challenge is the location of the pit exit, which feeds directly into the apex at Turn 1 and has been the location of several collisions in the past.

Combined with the large number of rookie drivers this season and the lack of data teams have on the circuit in the new Dallara SF19 car, teams will have to make the most of practice and qualifying sessions before the race on Sunday.

It is set to be an exciting race as drivers battle likely wet conditions, a tight circuit and a new car, all in the hopes of gaining vital championship points. Who will win? Will Yamamoto hold off Cassidy and maintain the championship lead, or will Cassidy live up to everyone’s (including his own) expectations and regain the championship lead? Will another driver spoil the party and make it a three-way contest? Tune into the race on or our preferred Let’s Go Racing YouTube channel this Sunday at 3pm AEST.

Images via Kartcom and Super Formula Championship

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Keegan Bennett

Journalist - Japanese Motorsport at MotorsportM8

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