Honda junior Yusuke Mitsui won both Japanese Formula 4 races at Suzuka to become a serious title contender.
Qualifying was split into groups, Yusuke Mitsui set the pace in Group B with a 2m08.854 lap to take pole. Fellow Honda junior Yuto Nomura topped Group A with a 2m08.923s, putting him second on the race one grid and with the rest of the two groups (totaling 44 cars) following on their respective sides of the grid.
Mitsui immediately swept across to cover the inside line at the start, but they were not racing for long before the safety car appeared due to Nobuhiro Imada bouncing off the track and a seperate crash wiping out five other cars. That became six after Hachiro Osaka made it back to the pits, rejoined but then retired.
Racing resumed on lap four of 11 and Jin Nakamura, who had got into second on lap one, tried going for the lead around the outside of the first two corners. He failed, and a lap later the safety car was out again as Reijiro Yamazaki crashed out.
The next restart was on lap seven, and Nomura had a look at going around the outside of Nakamaura in the opening corners but thought better of it. Not as sensible were Tosei Moriyama and Rikuto Kobayashi just behind, who collided in the Esses.
That promoted Ryota Horachi and Kento Omiya to fourth and fifth, and helping them retain those positions to the finish was the appearance of the safety car on lap 10 after Hibiki Komatsu spun at the final chicane and his car was abandoned there.
That also secured Mitsui his third win of the season, with each of them coming at Suzuka, and he slashed Kobayahi’s championship lead from 39 down to 21 points.
The second-best laptimes from qualifying were used in the same format to set the grid for race two on Sunday, and Mitsui beat Nomura to pole again by 0.134 seconds.
A slow launch meant he swept to the inside straight away once again, while Nakamura tried passing Nomura twice on lap one but both times was somehow kept behind.
He got his move done around the outside of turn one, but then conceded second shortly after and this helped Mitsui pull almost two seconds clear. That gap was eradicated at the end of lap five as the safety car appeared due to Hironobu Shimizu and Yuki Sano colliding exiting turn one after Shimizu had just got by for 10th place.
Racing resumed on lap eight and Mitsui did what was needed to stay ahead and win again ahead of Nomura. Kobayashi pressured Nakamura and his attempted pass at the chicane on the penultimate lap enabled Horachi to pass both. Horachi was on the outside line for turn one though so dropped back behind Nakamura, and fifth for Kobayashi means he now leads Mitsui by six points.
Kazuhisa Urabe won a big battle for sixth ahead of Ryoma Henzan and Omiya.
Race 1 (11 laps)
1 Yusuke Mitsui HFDP 32m03.240s
2 Jin Nakamura TGR-DC RS +0.463s
3 Yuto Nomura HFDP +1.012s
4 Ryota Horachi Akiland Racing +1.812s
5 Kento Omiya PONOS Racing +2.596s
6 Yuki Sano TGR-DC RS +3.369s
7 Ryoma Henzan Buzz Racing +4.031s
8 Rin Arakawa Zap Speed +5.214s
9 Kazuhisa Urabe Bionic Jack Racing +5.779s
10 Itsuki Sato Helm Motorsports +6.972s
Pole: Mitsui, 2m08.854s
Fastest lap: Nomura, 2m10.604s
Race 2 (11 laps)
1 Mitsui 26m26.054s
2 Nomura +0.616s
3 Nakamura +3.371s
4 Horachi +3.488s
5 Rikuto Kobayashi TGR-DC RS +3.744s
6 Urabe +4.710s
7 Henzan +5.550s
8 Omiya +5.969s
9 Tosei Moriyama HFDP +7.468s
10 Shunji Okumoto TGR-DS RS +8.920s
P: Mitsui, 2m08.874s
FL: Nomura, 2m09.696s
1 Kobayashi 130 2 Mitsui 124 3 Nomura 114 4 Nakamura 99 5 Moriyama 62 6 Arakawa 46 7 Sano 39 8 Horachi 38 9 Okumoto 33 10 Omiya 26