Super Formula Lights regular Sena Sakaguchi dominated the first ever round of the rival Formula Regional Japanese Championship at Fuji Speedway.
The new regional Formula 3 series is set to be positioned directly above Japanese Formula 4, and uses a new Dome-designed chassis.
Rather than a grid of F4 graduates, the heavily delayed first round attracted some of Japan’s top single-seater talents who are yet to catch a break in Super Formula, and a group of aging Masters class drivers.
Sakaguchi – who is also a race-winner in Super GT’s secondary GT300 class and will race for B-MAX Racing with Motopark in SF Lights this year – took pole for all three races but almost immediately lost his advantage once racing began.
Ex-Formula V8 3.5 driver Yu Kanamaru, his team-mate over the weekend at Sutekina Racing Team, passed him for the lead on the opening lap of race one and Sakaguchi had to wait a short while before he could come back at the more experienced driver and reclaim the lead.
Once back ahead, Sakaguchi romped away to a 9.714s win, his first at an F3 level. Post-race, he compared the regional F3 car to its F4 counterpart when it came to handling.
Kanamaru finished a lonely second, with F4 and TCR Japan graduate Takuro Shinohara completing an all-Sutekina podium.
Sakaguchi sorted his start out for race two, but Kanamaru was still best off the line and he leapt up several positions to second place.
His pace wasn’t enough to stay in second though, slipping behind Shinohara and Super Licence’s Tomoki Takahashi, often seen in Asian F3, while Sakaguchi took a 16.918s win in the 15-lap race.
After an engine issue meant he couldn’t start race one, B-MAX Racing boss DRAGON won the Masters class in race two.
Sakaguchi was almost as dominant in race three, winning by 11.540s over Takahashi. Kanamaru once again made a great start but then faded, but did complete the podium ahead of TOM’S driver Yuga Furutani. Following a successful karting career, Furutani will also race in Japanese F4 this year with TOM’S.
Race 1 (15 laps)
1 Sena Sakaguchi Sutekina Racing Team 24m25.790s
2 Yu Kanamaru Sutekina Racing Team +9.714s
3 Takuro Shinohara Sutekina Racing Team +15.194s
4 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +16.146s
5 Ryohei Sakaguchi Field Racing +17.242s
6 Tomoki Takahashi Super Licence +29.306s
7 Nobuhiro Imada Eagle Sports +33.338s
8 Masaru Miura CMS +39.641s
9 Masayuki Ueda Rn-sports +44.777s
10 Hachiro Osaka Zap Speed +1m11.222s
Pole: S Sakaguchi, 1m36.315s
Fastest lap: S Sakaguchi, 1m37.152s
Race 2 (15 laps)
1 S Sakaguchi 24m16.593s
2 Shinohara +16.918s
3 Takahashi +17.217s
4 Kanamaru +20.630s
5 Furutani +21.223s
6 R Sakaguchi +28.379s
7 DRAGON B-MAX Racing +36.351s
8 Ueda +40.201s
9 Miura +48.702s
10 Imada +49.216s
P: S Sakaguchi, 1m36.080s
FL: S Sakaguchi, 1m36.936s
Race 3 (15 laps)
1 S Sakaguchi 24m23.139s
2 Takahashi +11.540s
3 Kanamaru +14.173s
4 Furutani +15.037s
5 Shinohara +24.290s
6 R Sakaguchi +24.661s
7 Imada +37.619s
8 DRAGON +39.051s
9 Ueda +40.542s
10 Miura +45.529s
P: S Sakaguchi, 1m36.237s
FL: S Sakaguchi, 1m37.211s
1 S Sakaguchi 75 2 Kanamaru 45 3 Shinohara 43 4 Takahashi 41 5 Furutani 34 6 R Sakaguchi 26 7 Imada 13 8 DRAGON 10 9 Ueda 8 10 Miura 7