Home Formula 4Japanese F4 Shimizu leads Japanese F4 opener as engine issues rule 10 drivers out

Shimizu leads Japanese F4 opener as engine issues rule 10 drivers out

by Ida Wood

Photo: Japanese F4

Drago Corse’s Hironobu Shimizu leads the points after Japanese Formula 4’s season-opening round at Fuji Speedway.

There were plenty of practice sessions, and Honda junior Yuto Nomura was fastest on a wet Wednesday. He lowered the pace to 1m45.071s on a dry Thursday, leading team-mate Ryota Horachi by 0.085 seconds.

Qualifying followed on Friday, and early on Horachi had to pit with a loose wheel. He returned to track and qualified sixth, with Kotaro Shimbara setting a 1m44.948s to beat Tosei Moriyama to pole by 0.175s. Nomura was third, ahead of Toyota junior Yuki Sano and Shimizu.

Three drivers stalled starting race one, and Moriyama got a better launch than Shimbara but the poleman stayed ahead. Sano slipstreamed past Nomura for third on lap two, and Honda junior Ryota Horachi resisted the attacks of Ponos Racing’s Kento Omiya to hold fifth on lap three.

Ryo Shirasaki passed Omiya into turn one next time by, as Moriyama tried overtaking Shimbara at turn three. On lap five he made another turn one attempt, then approaching turn three drove into the back of Shimbara and sent him into the barriers. Moriyama took the lead, with Sano and Nomura chasing.

The safety car appeared on lap seven after Chenghua Lin was spun and then got driven into by William Sakai, and as racing resumed on lap 12 of 14 Moriyama got a drive-through penalty for his clash. He finished 26th after serving it, with Sano winning. Nomura finished second despite going off at the restart, and Horachi was third. Shirasaki lost out in side-by-side battles to drop to sixth behind Shimizu and Toyota junior Kazuhisa Urabe.

Drivers’ second-best qualifying laptimes set race two’s grid on Saturday, and a 1m45.221s from Moriyama earned him pole. Shimbara, Sano and Nomura filled the top four 0.033s, 0.098s and 0.15s behind.

Engine troubles meant there were 10 non-starters (all four Toyota juniors, B-MAX Racing’s three cars, both Ponos drivers and Fujita Pharmacy Racing’s Shouma Arimura) and race one’s podium trio was absent. Shimizu and Shirasaki therefore filled the grid’s second row.

Shimbara stalled at the start, and Moriyama le Shimizu and Itsuki Sato. Keiji Nakao and “Ikari” clashed at turn one on lap two, with Sakai and Masayoshi Oyama also going off, prompting a safety car period.

A three-wide battle for third on the lap five restart resulted in Shirasaki making double contact, spinning Rio Shomono around and having to pit.

The race settled down up front, with Moriyama winning ahead of Shimizu and Sato, but drama continued behind.

On lap eight Nakao exited pitlane into the path of Shimbara, who had just passed Daiki Matsuda for eighth. Shimbara gained another spot when Masaki Murata retired with a technical issue, and starting lap 12 went three-wide with the battling Kenta Kumagai and Hibiki Komatsu for fourth.

He passed Komatsu on the outside, then Kumagai had a wobble and Shimbara went around his outside at turn four. Kumagai reclaimed fourth at the Dunlop chicane, and Komatsu passed Shimbara at 13th Corner then Kumagai too at Panasonic. They began lap 13 three-wide and Komatsu lost two spots as Shimbara returned to fourth. It was three-wide again into turn one, but no positions changed thereon.

Results round-up
Race 1 (14 laps)
1 Yuki Sano TGR-DC RS 29m07.564s
2 Yuto Nomura HFDP +0.798s
3 Ryota Horachi HFDP +1.226s
4 Hironobu Shimizu Drago Corse +3.127s
5 Kazuhias Urabe TGR-DC RS +4.097s
6 Ryo Shirasaki Bionic Jack Racing +4.691s
7 Tokiya Suzuki TGR-DC RS +6.505s
8 Takumi Saigusa Falcon Motorsport +9.692s
9 Daiki Matsuda Skill Speed +10.285s
10 Kenta Kumagai OTG Motor Sports +11.881s
Pole: Kotaro Shimbara, 1m44.948s
Fastest lap: Horachi, 1m45.513s

Race 2 (14 laps)
1 Tosei Moriyama Helm Motorsports 27m17.634s
2 Shimizu +0.704s
3 Itsuki Sato Drago Corse +3.371s
4 Kotaro Shimbara Kageyama Racing +13.571s
5 Kumagai +16.205s
6 Hibiki Komatsu Rn-sports +16.242s
7 Saigusa +18.916s
8 Matsuda +20.467s
9 “Hirobon” Helm Motorsports +23.646s
10 Chenghua Lin Buzz Racing +25.552s
P: Moriyama, 1m45.221s
FL: Shimizu, 1m45.439s

Championship standings
1 Shimizu 30   2 Moriyama 25   3 Sano 25   4 Nomura 18   5 Sato 15   6 Horachi 15   7 Shimbara 12   8 Kumagai 11   9 Urabe 10   10 Saigusa 10