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Suzuka Super Formula: Yamamoto dominates, Vandoorne takes debut podium

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Suzuka Super Formula: Yamamoto dominates, Vandoorne takes debut podium
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Naoki Yamamoto cruised to a lights-to-flag win at the Super Formula season opener at Suzuka, as McLaren protege Stoffel Vandoorne took third place on his series debut.

Takashi Kogure, Drago Cose
Kamui Kobayashi, Team LeMans
Kamui Kobayashi, Team LeMans
Hiroaki Ishiura, Cerumo Inging
Naoki Yamamoto, Team Mugen
Andre Lotterer, Petronas Team Tom's
Narain Karthikeyan, Team LeMans

At the start, Yamamoto led from the front, establishing a three second gap in the opening laps to protect himself from any chance of an early attack.

Behind, Yuji Kunimoto held on to second position, with Vandoorne jumping Yuhi Sekiguchi to move up to third.

Sekiguchi, having started third, eventually, finished 14th after he was given a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race.

The status quo at the sharp end of the pack remained the same, despite Kunimoto’s attempt to overhaul his rivals by pitting a lap later.

The trio were eventually separated by 13 seconds at the chequered flag, with Team Mugen's Yamamoto taking the top honours and Vandoorne securing a podium finish on his debut.

Behind the lead pack, Takashi Kogure finished in fourth place, with Koudai Tsukakoshi finishing a further seven seconds adrift in fifth position.

Former F1 test driver James Rossiter overtook Andre Lotterer in the latter stages of the race to take sixth, the duo having made up ground early on after starting in the lower reaches of top 10.

The other Belgian in the field, Bertrand Baguette, took the final point after a fierce battle with Japanese Tomoki Nojiri towards the end of the race.

While the race was largely straightforward, Team Le Mans had an eventful outing at Suzuka. Ex-F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi’s loosely-fitted right rear tyre came out of position, necessitating an early pitstop and demoting him to the back of the pack.

Teammate Narain Karthikeyan endured far worse fortunes, retiring a lap after his pitstop.

Toyota WEC star Kazuki Nakajima also had a tough race, starting from 14th and managing only 12th, just behind last year's champion Hiroaki Ishiura.

Race Results:

 

Po.DriverTeamTime/Gap
 
1  Naoki Yamamoto Team Mugen 1hr13m519s
2  Yuji Kunimoto P.MU 11.710
3  Stoffel Vandoorne Dandelion Racing 13.194
4  Takashi Kogure Drago Corse 16.758
5  Koudai Tsukakoshi Real Racing 23.270
6  James Rossiter Kondo 25.199
7  Andre Lotterer Team TOM’S 30.052
8  Bertrand Baguette Nakajima Racing 31.040
9  Tomoki Nojiri Dandelion Racing 37.410
10  J.P.de Oliveira Team Impul 37.971
11  Hiroaki Ishiura P.MU 38.214
12  Kazuki Nakajima Team TOM’S  45.132
13  Yuichi Nakayama KCMG  1'09.602
14  Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 1'10.595
15  William Buller Kondo 1'39.752
16  Kamui Kobayashi Team Le Mans 2Laps
DNF   Takuya Izawa Real Racing 6Laps
DNF   Daisuke Nakajima Nakaijima Racing 8Laps
DNF   Narain Karthikeyan Team Le Mans 20Laps
Suzuka Super Formula: Yamamoto takes season's first pole, Vandoorne fourth

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