Kondo Racing Toyota’s Kenta Yamashita scored his first Super Formula win at Okayama as Naoki Yamamoto is back in the lead.
Pole-sitter and Team Impul Toyota’s Ryo Hirakawa led the way in Okayama’s Super Formula race as Dandelion Honda’s Nirei Fukuzumi moved to second from the Konda Racing pair.
It was Yuji Kunimoto ahead of Yamashita. A crash for Fukuzumi brought the safety car out which split the strategies among the drivers with Hirakawa staying along with host of other drivers.
It included Inging Toyota’s Hiroaki Ishiura, title contender Team Toms’s Toyota’s Nick Cassidy, B-Max Racing with Motopark Honda’s Lucas Auer, Team Mugen Honda’s Tomoki Nojiri in the Top 5.
Yamashita, meanwhile, was the second in the line on the alternate strategy which was led by KCMG Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi. It looked like Kobayashi will have a say but his late clash with Cassidy hindered his chances.
It dropped him back along with the Kiwi, who did not score and thereby lost his Super Formula points lead which he gained in the last round at Fuji. With Kunimoto stopping again, it helped Yamashita with a clean run.
The Japanese assumed the lead once others pitted and held on to register his career’s first win in Super Formula. Cassidy’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima benefited to be second – his first podium of 2019.
The other beneficiary was B-Max Racing with Motopark’s Harrison Newey, who made nine places from 12th on the alternate strategy to register his first Super Formula podium with his dad Adrian beside him.
TCS Nakajima Racing Honda’s Alex Palou also made the strategy work to be fourth with Red Bull junior and Newey’s teammate Auer was fifth ahead of fellow Red Bull driver Patricio O’Ward in the Team Mugen Honda.
The Mexican scored his first points in sixth with new points leader Dandelion Honda’s Yamamoto in seventh. The Japanese made the two stop work as Team LeMans Toyota’s Kazuya Oshima took the last point.
The Top 10 had Nojiri in ninth ahead of Cassidy. Position 11-18: Sho Tsuboi, Hirakawa, Yuhi Sekiguchi, Koudai Tsukakoshi, Yuichi Nakayama, Kunimoto, Tadasuke Makino, Kobayashi (65 laps). DNF: Ishiura, Fukuzumi.