Suzuka Super Formula: Nakajima cruises to win first race of 2017
Former Grand Prix driver Kazuki Nakajima won the first Super Formula race of the 2017 season at Suzuka unchallenged, after benefiting from pitting in a safety car phase.
At the start of the race, Nakajima had a strong getaway from pole position, with Naoki Yamamoto getting past front-row starter Yuji Kunimoto for second.
The on-track battle, however, was soon subsided by strategy, with more than half the field pitting in the first four laps to get the mandatory stop out of the way.
Defending champion Kunimoto led the pack of early stoppers, which also included Hiroaki Ishiura, Andre Lotterer, Yuhi Sekiguchi, Felix Rosenqvist and Pierre Gasly.
However, the top two decided to stay out, a decision that paid off when Super Formula returnee Kazuya Oshima spun and stalled at the exit of Spoon on Lap 23, bringing out the safety car.
Taking advantage of the situation, Nakajima and Yamamoto immediately dived into the pits and managed to keep their positions intact.
After the safety car phase ended, Nakajima was quick to pull away, establishing a two-second cushion in just one lap.
The 32-year-old went on to secure a comfortable win, his first one in Super Formula since Autopolis 2015.
Yamamoto finished five seconds adrift in second, while Kunimoto secured the final spot on the podium.
Ishiura was classified in fourth place, while Lotterer held off a charging Koudai Tsukakoshi to finish fifth.
Further back, Daisuke Nakajima took seventh while Takuya Izawa bagged the final championship point in eighth.
Kamui Kobayashi and Gasly had their own tussle in the midfield, with the Japanese driver eventually emerging out on top after making a fine move at the chicane.
The duo first banged wheels after Kobayashi came out of the pits on cold tyres, with Gasly using the additional grip of his Yokohama tyres to make a brave pass on the outside at the Esses.
However, the KCMG driver hit back after a few laps, sealing the ninth spot.
Even though Gasly failed to score a point on his debut, he finished as the top rookie in 10th.
Rosenqvist, another driver to lose out because of an early pitstop, finished only 11th, while Cassidy’s race was compromised by the need of making an additional stop in the latter stages of the race.
Macau Grand Prix star Kenta Yamashita could finish no higher than 14th, while Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough spun at Turn 1 with just four laps remaining.
|Po.||Driver||Car Name / Engine||Gap|
|6||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Real Racing-Honda||11.266|
|7||Daisuke Nakajima||Nakajima Racing-Honda||16.907|
|11||Felix Rosenqvist||Team LeMans-Toyota||22.115|
|12||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul-Toyota||23.691|
|13||Narain Karthikeyan||Nakajima Racing-Honda||24.204|
|15||Takashi Kogure||B-Max Racing-Honda||28.398|
|17||Nick Cassidy||Kondo-Toyota||1 Lap|
|18||Jann Mardenborough||Team Impul-Toyota||4 Laps|
|DNF||Kazuya Oshima||Team LeMans-Honda||-|
Suzuka Super Formula: Nakajima takes pole, Gasly eighth
Gasly hobbled by car issues on Super Formula debut