Iori Kimura became Super Formula Lights champion in the season finale at Twin Ring Motegi, which took place a week later than originally planned.
There were four practice sessions, with the first two taking place on Thursday. Joining the series regulars just for practice was two-time Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri, who raced in SF Lights’ predecessor Japanese Formula 3 a decade ago, and he was driving a “test car equipped with a new engine” according to the series.
He set a 1m43.340s to top FP1 by 0.084 seconds over Toyota junior Seita Nonaka, and lowered the pace to 1m42.060s in FP2 when he was 0.682s faster than Igor Fraga. Rain hit Friday’s two sessions, with only seven drivers heading out for FP3 and Nojiri going fastest by 0.72s over Enzo Trulli. FP4 attracted four drivers, and Nojiri led David Vidales by 0.987s.
Qualifying took place on a dry Saturday morning and Vidales was unable to set a lap then missed the rest of the weekend. Kimura took race one with a 1m43.285s, putting him 0.52s clear of fellow Honda junior Syun Koide in second. Series returnee Togo Suganami qualified third ahead of Fraga, Nonaka and Yuga Furutani.
The laptimes that set the race two grid were faster, and Kimura took his fifth pole of 2023 with a 1m43.277s. Fraga was 0.18s slower in second, and just 0.015s up on Hibiki Taira in third. Suganami, Koide and Nonaka were also within 0.4s of pole.
Most of the race one action was contained in lap one, with Suganami making a strong start to take second on the outside line going into the first apex of turn one. Koide had the inside and at the second apex briefly reclaimed his position but then had to reduce his speed to navigate the corner and ended up dropping behind Suganami and Fraga to fourth.
Kimura pulled away from Suganami to take his fifth win of the season, and Fraga picked up his fourth podium in a row in third. Title outsider Koide almost pushed Taira off on lap two as he failed to defend fourth place, and he was seventh before the end of the lap.
Race two mostly lacked action after drivers fought for position off the line. Kimura dominated to take the points lead from Taira, who finished fourth on-the-road but a time penalty dropped him to fifth.
There was some battling for seventh on lap four of 21 between Sota Ogawa and Furutani, then after pressuring Fraga a bit on lap eight, Koide started hounding him again for second late on after benefitting from Suganami – who lost a lap in the pits – appearing in front of them as lapped traffic.
Kimura started on pole and Taira in fourth for the title decider. Suganami made a strong start to pass Kimura for the lead through turn one, while Taira passed Fraga for third. But he needed to finish ahead of Kimura to win the title, and instead the top two pulled away with Suganami taking his second win.
Race 1 (14 laps)
1 Iori Kimura B-MAX Racing 24m43.242s
2 Togo Suganami B-MAX Racing +2.754s
3 Igor Fraga B-MAX Racing+3.536s
4 Hibiki Taira TOM’S +6.762s
5 Seita Nonaka TOM’S +11.398s
6 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +14.473s
7 Syun Koide Toda Racing +14.735s
8 Enzo Trulli TOM’S +16.642s
9 Sota Ogawa Rn-sports +26.710s
10 Nobuhiro Imada B-MAX Racing +35.161s
Pole: Kimura, 1m43.285s
Fastest lap: Kimura, 1m44.823s
Race 2 (20 laps)
1 Kimura 35m08.325s
2 Fraga +6.572s
3 Koide +7.284s
4 Nonaka +13.103s
5 Taira +16.311s
6 Trulli +17.009s
7 Ogawa +31.321s
8 Furutani +32.157s
9 Imada +51.361s
10 “Dragon” B-MAX Racing +1m03.020s
P: Kimura, 1m43.277s
FL: Kimura, 1m44.609s
Race 3 (14 laps)
1 Suganami 24m49.067s
2 Kimura +2.365s
3 Taira +5.939s
4 Fraga +9.164s
5 Furutani +10.226s
6 Trulli +14.359s
7 Nonaka +15.214s
8 Koide +16.628s
9 Ogawa +24.050s
10 Imada +38.510s
FL: Suganami, 1m45.757s
1 Kimura 113 2 Taira 102 3 Koide 81 4 Fraga 62 5 Trulli 43 6 Suganami 39 7 Nonaka 36 8 Furutani 24 9 David Vidales 19 10 Yuui Tsutsumi 14