Honda Super Formula drivers eye chance to succeed Sato in IndyCar

Several Honda drivers racing in Super Formula have expressed interest in the chance to race in IndyCar, should the brand want a Japanese driver to succeed Takuma Sato.

Hiroki Otsu, Ukyo Sasahara

Ukyo Sasahara, Hiroki Otsu and Tadasuke Makino have been the most vocal about the potential opportunity to race in America’s top single-seater series with backing from Honda in the future, as Sato, 45, nears the end of his full-time IndyCar career.

Any opportunity to make the transition would be unlikely to materialize before 2024, however, as the two-time Indy 500 winner's place at Dale Coyne Racing with RWR is believed to be secure for at least another season.

Sasahara, 26, and Otsu, 28, are both race winners in Super Formula, and both made a trip to the States to visit their compatriot Sato at the Texas IndyCar round back in 2018.

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Makino, 25, is still searching for his first Super Formula victory but has stood on the top step of the podium in FIA Formula 2, and was recently endorsed by IndyCar champion Alex Palou, with whom he was teammates at Nakajima Racing in 2019.

While some Japanese drivers - most notably three-time Super Formula title-winner Naoki Yamamoto - have expressed reservations about the safety of oval racing, Sasahara told’s Japanese edition earlier this year he has no such qualms.

“If there's a chance to go, I would like to do the whole series [ovals included],” said Sasahara, who notched up his first Super Formula win earlier this month at Fuji. 

“There is a risk when you crash, but that's something that you have to accept as a racing driver. You only get to live one life, so I want to push flat out and do everything I can until the end, and repay those that have supported this stance. 

“So if it's something I can do while I'm young, I want to go.”


Otsu’s first Super Formula win came last year in mixed conditions at Motegi, helping him to the 2021 Rookie of the Year prize, although he has struggled to make an impact in his sophomore season following his move from Team Mugen to Dandelion Racing.

Another factor that may count against Otsu is that, unlike Sasahara who spent his formative years in Europe before returning to Japan, he has no experience of racing internationally, and as such is not as fluent in English.

“I'd like to do IndyCar and that's a goal of mine,” Otsu told earlier this season. “First I want to be the best in Japan, but I want to aim for that chance.”

Makino was name-checked by Palou as one of Super Formula's biggest talents in an interview for earlier this year, the Spaniard describing his former teammate as “really fast”.

Although he has yet to win a race in Super Formula, the ex-F2 racer has established himself as Honda’s most consistent performer next to reigning champion Tomoki Nojiri this season, currently occupying fifth place in the standings.

“It’s really interesting,” said Makino when asked about the idea of racing in IndyCar. “Sometimes I watch IndyCar races, I always watch the Indy 500 and I’m supporting Alex!

“My priority now is to really focus on Super Formula; I really want to get my first win. That’s my focus now, but after that I would consider something like IndyCar.”


One Honda Super Formula driver who has ruled out a full-time IndyCar move is Nirei Fukuzumi, who finished runner-up to Nojiri in last year’s championship, scoring two wins.

Fukuzumi got married ahead of the 2021 season and said the idea of leaving Japan to live in the U.S. doesn’t appeal, although he admitted a one-off in the Indy 500 could be attractive.

“IndyCar has no power steering [unlike Super Formula], and it’s also a bit dangerous, you have to take a lot of risks,” he said. “I love Japan, and I feel like America is a bit of a dangerous country. There are a lot of reasons I don’t want to go. 

“But it’s interesting that so many young drivers are doing the Indy 500. I’d like to try it once.”

Nojiri, meanwhile, has made it clear on multiple occasions that his only interest lies in staying in Super Formula to become one of the category’s all-time greats.

Additional reporting by Kenichiro Ebii


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