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Esports star Igor Fraga opens up about his return to single-seaters

by Ida Wood

Photo: Super Formula Lights

He is best known for Esports, but Igor Fraga also has a fascinating single-seater career that was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Japan-born Brazilian initially established himself in virtual racing, winning the Gran Turismo World Series and the McLaren Shadow Project.

By that point he had already been Brazilian Formula 3’s Academy class champion and NACAM Formula 4 runner-up. He then came fourth in USF2000, and with the backing of racing game franchise Gran Turismo (which he still has) and mentorship of former Formula 1 driver Roberto Moreno, he was third in the Formula Regional European Championship and won the Toyota Racing Series.

Red Bull signed him as a junior, but a trying 2020 FIA F3 season sapped his career momentum. Brazil’s lockdown measures, and travel restrictions, meant he could only enter Europe a week before the season began, he scored just one point and missed races.

Fraga initially seemed set for a second season, but was out of action until a Super Formula test last December. Having moved to Japan 13 months ago, he now races there in SF Lights.

“We were already trying to get a SF Lights seat since 2021 but due to the borders being closed in Japan it was impossible to enter the country. So we were already in touch with a few people trying to organise testing etc. but it took time for things to happen,” the 24-year-old told Formula Scout.

“At the end of 2021 I had an opportunity to do testing in Japan, but with the borders being closed I couldn’t get in and because of that it didn’t happen.”

Fraga’s rookie season this year has been mixed. The B-MAX Racing driver got a fourth place at Autopolis, a second and a win at Sportsland SUGO, and one top-five from the two rounds since. He heads to Okayama this weekend fifth in the standings.

“No matter the situation I want to give my best and achieve a win. I think I got up to speed quickly and didn’t have much of an issue in terms of adaptation,” Fraga said of his racing return.

“I expected more podiums. In terms of pace we just struggled at Fuji Speedway really, on all other circuits I was starting in top three most of the time but things were not going according to plan. Had a clutch issue at Autopolis, then a compressor problem in the second qualifying and a mistake in race one at Suzuka. The pace was there but it was always missing something on the race to achieve better results.

“We really have to improve the rear mechanical grip. I’m struggling on low to mid-speed corners in terms of rear stability and couldn’t find the pace at Fuji.

“The last two tracks will be very demanding on traction, so fixing that I think I’ll have some good chances to get good results. I really want to have a good performance and put everything together in the races, achieving victory and podiums.

“For 2024 it will depend a bit on the results of the last two rounds but it will be amazing if I can jump up to SF.”