Vips to travel to Japan despite risk of entry refusal

Red Bull junior Juri Vips will make a last-ditch attempt to travel to Japan this week in time for the Super Formula season, despite the risk that he will be turned away at the border.

Juri Vips, Team Mugen

Vips is one of seven drivers that are likely to be forced to miss out when the delayed 2020 campaign kicks off at Motegi on August 29-30 due to travel restrictions imposed by Japan in the wake of the global coronavirus crisis.

However, the Estonian will nevertheless make the trip to the East Asian country in the hopes of being granted an exemption to the rules that currently prevent foreign travellers from over 140 different countries from being allowed to enter.

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"Juri will fly to Japan on Wednesday and arrive on Thursday morning," Asmer told "I don’t know if he gets into the country or not, but we did everything we can.

"We have letters from the Estonian government to ask for an exemption. I want to say a big thanks to the Estonian government, everybody has been so helpful and I am thankful. They have done everything they can and it’s just up to Japan now.

"We haven’t given up, we are still trying to get him to Motegi. But I don’t think it will work."

Vips made his Super Formula debut last year in the Suzuka season finale and was set for a full season with the Team Mugen squad that took Pierre Gasly to second in the standings.

In the event that Vips' attempt to secure entry to Japan fails, it appears likely that Mugen SUPER GT driver Ukyo Sasahara would be called up to take his place.

Sasahara has no Super Formula experience but has an extensive junior single-seater racing CV that includes the title in last year's Asian Formula 3 series.

Ukyo Sasahara(#16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT)

Ukyo Sasahara(#16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT)

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Asked if he expected to race at Motegi, Sasahara told "I don’t know to be honest, but I know it’s difficult for Juri to get into Japan with the travel restrictions.

"If I have a chance I would love to go for it, and I think I can show something. I’ve never driven the car, but having the test on the Friday will help for the race."

Formula Regional superlicence situation not clear

At the end of June it was announced that Vips would take on an additional programme in the Formula Regional European Championship to serve as a back-up plan for the 20-year-old in case racing in Super Formula turned out to be impossible.

This decision was based on Formula Regional offering the same superlicence points as Super Formula, but the fact only 11 cars were entered for the first round of the season at Misano means the series falls short of the 16 car minimum to award full points.

Asmer said Vips is now awaiting clarity on the situation but could potentially see out the season if the series can still offer a route to a superlicence.

"They were planning to have 18 or 19 cars, but at Misano there were only 11 cars," explained Asmer. "We sent a letter to the FIA to ask if there any changes to the rules because of COVID, which is why there are not so many drivers. But the FIA hasn’t answered us.

"The priority is still Super Formula, but If Juri can’t do the first round, it will be extremely difficult for him to win the championship. If there any changes to the rules [in Formula Regional], we would like to know and we will continue and try to win it."

Vips currently sits seventh in the standings after the Misano round having taken a best result of fourth place across the three races at the Italian track.

Juri Vips, Kic 

Juri Vips, Kic Motorsport

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