The Formula Regional Japanese Championship suffered from depleted grids and depleted race action in round two at Suzuka.
Only seven drivers turned up, with surprisingly “Motoki” the only one of those entered into the Masters classification for older competitors, and it was PONOS Racing’s series returnee Kazuki Oki who claimed race one pole in the first qualifying session on Saturday.
He was fastest by 0.143 seconds over Bionic Jack Racing’s points leader Sota Ogawa, then M2 Competition’s Kiwi proteges Liam Sceats and Kaleb Ngatoa were third and fourth for Sutekina Racing Team.
Ogawa’s team-mate Yugo Iwasawa was only slightly slower than Ngatoa in fifth, then Tomohito Watabe (Helm Motorsports) and Motoki were both off the pace.
The track was declared wet for the second qualifying session but laptimes were actually faster as Ogawa set a 1m58.940s to claim pole by 0.396s. Oki qualified second, then just 0.035s split Ngatoa, Watabe (who caused the session to be a red flagged after he went off) and Iwasawa in third, fourth and fifth.
The weather was even worse for Sunday’s races as Suzuka was hit by torrential rain.
Race one started behind the safety car, but visibility started to worsen as soon as the cars moved off the grid. The safety car led the field for two-and-a-half laps before red flags were waved, and after which the pack headed to the grid in hope of a restart.
They sat there for 11 minutes before it was decided conditions were too severe for racing to begin again, and so the results were declared from the end of lap two.
That meant the drivers finished in the order they had qualified in, with Oki winning ahead of Ogawa and Sceats. The shortness of the race also meant only half-points were awarded.
Race two was not much better, with the track still drenched and water having to be brushed off the grid before the drivers could take to it. But the drivers were able to start the race under green flag conditions.
Immediate drama occurred, as Oki bogged down and Ngatoa initially did not get off the line. Those behind had to take avoiding action and were successful in doing so, and all seven cars made it to turn one.
There was actually battles for position through lap one, which Ogawa ended 4.390s cleae of Sceats and with Iwasa just behind in third.
Ngatoa spun off out of fourth at the Degner Curves on lap two, carrying too much speed and flying into the gravel. The safety car was called out to recover his car and led the field until red flags were waved on lap six due to the rain getting worse.
This time it was decided immediately that the race was done, and so the results were taken from the end of lap five. Ogawa claimed his second win of the season and extended his championship lead despite the race offering half-points, and Sceats got a new personal best result in second place.
Race 1 (2 laps)
1 Kazuki Oki PONOS Racing 7m38.638s
2 Sota Ogawa Bionic Jack Racing +0.932s
3 Liam Sceats Sutekina Racing Team +1.643s
4 Kaleb Ngatoa Sutekina Racing Team +2.255s
5 Yugo Iwasawa Bionic Jack Racing +3.344s
6 Tomohito Watabe Helm Motorsports +4.927s
7 “Motoki” Rn-sports +5.758s
Pole: Oki, 1m59.589s
Fastest lap: Motoki, 3m44.697s
Race 2 (5 laps)
2 Sceats +0.623s
3 Iwasawa +2.058s
4 Oki +2.925s
5 “Motoki” +4.485s
6 Watabi +5.854s
P: Ogawa, 1m58.940s
1 Ogawa 82.5 2 Ryunosuke Sawa 58 3 Yuya Hiraki 55 4 Iwasawa 46.5 5 Sceats 38.5 6 Yorikatsu Tsujiko 24 7 Oki 18.5 8 “Yuki” 18 9 “Yugo” 16 10 Masahiro Hayashi 10