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Yamashita in tears after first Super Formula podium since 2020

Kenta Yamashita was overwhelmed by emotion as he ended a podium drought stretching back almost three years in last weekend’s second Super Formula race at Fuji.

Kenta Yamashita ,KONDO RACING

From sixth on the grid, Kondo Racing man Yamashita finished third on Sunday behind Tomoki Nojiri and Sho Tsuboi, albeit finishing fourth on the road and gaining a place from Liam Lawson’s penalty.

It marked his first top-three finish in Super Formula since the opening round of the 2020 season at Motegi. He went on to finish seventh in that year’s standings, but slumped to 14th the following season and then a disastrous 15th in 2022.

Yamashita could be seen welling up inside his helmet as he pulled into parc ferme after the race, and his voice quivered as he gave his parc ferme interview.

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In the subsequent press conference, Yamashita reflected on his recent struggles in Super Formula with Kondo, admitting that he had started to question whether he had a place in the series that he abandoned a Toyota World Endurance Championship chance to focus on.

“I’ve been struggling for a long time in Super Formula, and I had the strong feeling that whatever I did, nothing worked,” said an emotional Yamashita. 

“I think anyone who has driven in Super Formula understands, but there are so many things that I can’t work out. 

“There was a long time that, no matter what we did, the results wouldn’t come. That was the case for three years. We were struggling to even get points, and I wondered whether I was really cut out [to race in Super Formula]...”

 

Yamashita’s podium finish also came against the backdrop of his pre-season back injury, caused by a crash in SUPER GT testing at Suzuka, forcing him to skip the one and only pre-season test at Suzuka.

He was also visibly agitated at being taken out of the opening race at Fuji on the first lap after being hit by Yuhi Sekiguchi approaching Turn 1.

“I had a tough time at the start of this year after the crash,” continued Yamashita. “A lot of things were piling on top of one another. Watching on TV, I used to wonder why people cried when they won… now I understand!”

Two-time champion Nojiri, whose early Super Formula career was plagued by inconsistency, also offered a touching word of encouragement to Yamashita during the press conference.

“There were a lot of times that I thought I wasn't cut out for Super Formula either,” he told Yamashita. “The year I was 17th in the standings [2017], I seriously thought about quitting. Let’s keep pushing.”

Motorsport.tv is showing all Super Formula qualifying sessions and races live in 2023. Click here for further information and to sign up today.

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