B-MAX Racing’s Honda junior Iori Kimura won all three races in the opening Super Formula Lights round at Autopolis.
Kimura claimed pole for race one by 0.472 seconds over team-mate Igor Fraga, with little over a tenth of a second covering Hibiki Taira, Yuga Furutani and Honda junior Syun Koide in third to fifth.
TOM’S driver Seita Nonaka, who finished fourth in the 2022 standings, could only qualify eighth and was 1.160s off the pace.
Fraga stalled at the start and dropped to 11th, and gaps quickly opened up between the top three. Over 21 laps, Kimura built a lead of 4.183s over Taira, with Furutani finishing a further 0.846s behind.
B-MAX’s David Vidales led the fight for fourth, with Koide and Nonaka in his mirrors. On lap 11 he started to be pressured by Koide, while Taira ahead had Furutani all over his gearbox, but ultimately neither got close enough to attempt overtaking before they suffered from sitting in dirty air.
Furutani started hounding Taira again with four laps to go, but again could not get close enough to pass. Fraga did make up places after his awful start but retired after four laps.
Before race one there was qualifying for race two, which would take place the next day, and Kimura put it on pole again ahead of a closely matched Koide and Furutani.
Koide made the better start to race two, and led into the opening corner. But he was on the outside and so Kimura was back ahead by the apex thanks to having the inside line.
Furutani and Fraga went side-by-side for several corners before eventually Furutani asserted himself in third. Vidales bogged down off the line and fell to the back (while Nobuhiro Imada in last failed to get off the line), then retired in the pits after four laps.
Kimura, Koide and Furutani ran in formation for the rest of the 14-lap race, while for eight laps Fraga came under pressure from Nonaka. The latter attempted an overtake late in lap three, then on four occassions Fraga swept to the outside line exiting the final corner to defend his position. It worked, as he held on to fourth by 1.281s.
There was pre-race drama for race three, as somebody was still working on Nonaka’s car on the grid when the field started the formation lap. Marshals managed to escort him away, and Nonaka lined up last rather than sixth.
Kimura had pole again and converted it into victory, while Furutani passed Taira for second on the run to the first corner and kept the position despite taking the outside line. Taira pressured Furutani through lap two, then passed him around the outside of turn one on lap three.
Furutani later came under pressure from Vidales, who on lap one had gone three-wide with Koide and Trulli then locked up and ended up passing both as Koide ran wide and forced Trulli off.
Trulli also dropped behind Fraga, whose failed attempt at passing Koide on lap four led to Trulli getting back past and getting a wheel alongside Koide before he was sent off again.
This time he did not fall back behind Fraga, who was later pressured by Yuui Tsutsumi. Nonaka was penalised 50,000 yen (~£291) and 30s for his grid violation.
Race 1 (21 laps)
1 Iori Kimura B-MAX Racing 35m49.740s
2 Hibiki Taira TOM’S +4.183s
3 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +5.029s
4 David Vidales B-MAX Racing +7.639s
5 Syun Koide Toda Racing +9.243s
6 Seita Nonaka TOM’S +13.643s
7 Enzo Trulli TOM’S +20.200s
8 Yuui Tsutsumi Rn-sports +23.754s
9 Nobuhiro Imada B-MAX Racing +1m00.068s
10 DRAGON B-MAX Racing +1m07.580s
Pole: Kimura, 1m38.748s
Fastest lap: Kimura, 1m40.809s
Race 2 (14 laps)
1 Kimura 23m44.511s
2 Koide +1.690s
3 Furutani +3.514s
4 Igor Fraga B-MAX Racing +5.299s
5 Nonaka +6.581s
6 Taira +21.566s
7 Trulli +23.006s
8 Tsutsumi +26.147s
9 DRAGON +39.802s
10 Imada +40.226s
P: Kimura, 1m38.742s
FL: Kimura, 1m40.164s
Race 3 (14 laps)
1 Kimura 24m00.311s
2 Taira +2.614s
3 Furutani +5.453s
4 Vidales +6.044s
5 Koide +15.230s
6 Trulli +15.870s
7 Fraga +17.058s
8 Tsutsumi +17.679s
9 DRAGON +48.718s
10 Nonaka +49.846s
FL: Kimura, 1m42.179s
1 Kimura 35 2 Taira 15 3 Furutani 15 4 Koide 11 5 Vidales 6 6 Fraga 3 7 Nonaka 3 8 Trulli 1 9 Tsutsumi 0 10 Dragon 0