Kazuto Kotaka ended a 16-month wait for his second Super Formula Lights win in race one at Suzuka this weekend, and added a third victory to leave as points leader.
He took race one pole by 0.338 seconds over Honda junior Kakunoshin Ohta, with TOM’S team-mates Seita Nonaka and Yuga Furutani filling the second row. Iori Kimura and Hibiki Taira qualified fifth and sixth.
Those positions almost went totally unchanged in the race. Ohta was initially gapped by Kotaka but was back on his tail by the race’s second half, closing to within four tenths of the lead.
On lap nine of 12 he tried passing Kotaka around the outside of the final chicane but didn’t have enough space, and Kotaka resisted to win.
Furutani’s fourth place came under pressure, with Kimura getting alongside into the final chicane on lap 10. He too ran out of space, tried another outside move at turn one but couldn’t make it stick.
Togo Suganami was able to overtake, clearing Taira for sixth around the outside of turn one on lap five. Two places further back was Seiya Motojima, who had replaced Kohta Kawaii at Rn-sports.
Motojima has raced in Japanese Formula 4 for one-and-a-half seasons, and won the non-FIA JAF Japan F4 title in 2021. During winter he tested with Rn-sports in SF Lights.
Race two took place in torrential rain on Sunday morning, with Ohta on pole by 0.181s from Nonaka and 0.222s from Kotaka.
Nonaka got alongside Ohta on the inside at the start, and it looked like he had the lead through turn one but Ohta carried more speed on the outside of turn two to stay ahead, and further through the ‘S’ Curves superior traction allowed Kotaka past Nonaka too.
Mid-race Motojima beached himself in the gravel exiting Degner Curve, bringing out the safety car. Ohta managed the restart and won, and Furutani moved on to the podium when Nonaka aquaplaned off at turn three and rejoined dangerously – earning a 30s penalty that demoted him to last.
Race three was also wet, and the grid’s left-hand side was tricky for Kotaka and Nonaka who started first and third. On the right, Ohta and Furutani each gained a place from second and fourth.
Ohta opened up a lead of 2.97s, while Kotaka frequently squirmed his way under the bridge, but then the gap closed and by the penultimate lap Kotaka was able to fein a pass at the hairpin.
On the final lap he got around the outside of Ohta at turn six, which became the inside for turn seven and the lead. But then Ohta slipped back under and had the inside through Dunlop, inching back ahead before Kotaka was later on the brakes into Degner to take the lead and win. Their battle meant Furutani was on their gearboxes at the finish.
Race 1 (12 laps)
1 Kazuto Kotaka TOM’S 22m45.426s
2 Kakunoshin Ohta Toda Racing +0.570s
3 Seita Nonaka TOM’S +1.137s
4 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +5.004s
5 Iori Kimura B-MAX Racing +5.346s
6 Togo Suganami B-MAX Racing +8.711s
7 Hibiki Taira TOM’S +13.406s
8 Seiya Motojima Rn-sports +17.388s
9 Reiji Hiraki Helm Motorsports +30.647s
10 Yuya Hiraki Helm Motorsports +30.852s
Pole: Kotaka, 1m51.450s
Fastest lap: Ohta, 1m53.223s
Race 2 (12 laps)
1 Ohta 28m55.931s
2 Kotaka +1.129s
3 Furutani +3.407s
4 Taira +4.187s
5 Kimura +6.174s
6 Suganami +8.765s
7 R Hiraki +15.878s
8 Nobuhiro Imada B-MAX Racing +22.200s
9 Y Hiraki +22.946s
10 DRAGON B-MAX Racing +25.338s
P: Ohta, 1m52.045s
FL: Ohta, 2m09.996s
Race 3 (17 laps)
1 Kotaka 37m50.811s
2 Ohta +1.228s
3 Furutani +2.049s
4 Suganami +4.274s
5 Taira +5.850s
6 Nonaka +6.820s
7 Kimura +12.147s
8 Motojima +20.468s
9 R Hiraki +25.567s
10 Y Hiraki +37.376s
FL: Kimura, 2m12.161s
1 Kotaka 43 2 Ohta 37 3 Taira 26 4 Nonaka 23 5 Kimura 20 6 Furutani 13 7 Suganami 10 8 Kohta Kawaai 5 9 R Hiraki 1 10 Y Hiraki 0