Toyota junior Kazuto Kotaka won the Super Formula Lights title as the season came to an end at Okayama.
Kotaka was placed into Super Formula last year as a stand-in driver, struggling at single-seaters’ top level in Japan, and he finally got to embark on his second full season in the series below it for 2022.
He made the most of it, particularly with now being allowed to drive at Okayama again after a previous ban, winning seven races in the first five rounds.
It was Honda juniors Kakunoshin Ohta and Iori Kimura who had the pace advantage in qualifying for the final round, and they carried that into the races.
Ohta held off Kimura to win by a second in race one, with Kotaka following them home in third and 5.916s behind.
It was a race of limited overtaking potential as everyone struggled once within a second of the car ahead, and it was the same in the season’s final two racs.
Kotaka passed poleman Kimura off the line in race two but took 10 laps to build a lead of a second over him, and eventually finished 0.961s clear.
There was an early safety car after Masters classification entrants DRAGON and Nobuhiro Imada collided while fighting for position, and this time Ohta finished a distant third.
Former Formula 1 and Formula 2 driver Roberto Merhi finished ninth on his series debut in race one and then copped a drive-through penalty for overtaking behind the safety car and retired in race two.
Ohta was on pole again for the final race of the season and used some agressive but fair defending against Kimura at the start to keep the lead. From there it was nother procession, with the lead gap growing to 1.888s but ending at 1.099s.
Seita Nonaka passed TOM’S team-mate Kotaka for third on lap one, and this time Merhi was an anonymous ninth.
Race 1 (25 laps)
1 Kakunoshin Ohta Toda Racing 35m04.459s
2 Iori Kimura B-MAX Racing +1.036s
3 Kazuto Kotaka TOM’S +5.916s
4 Seita Nonaka TOM’S +7.551s
5 Togo Suganami B-MAX Racing +11.980s
6 Hibiki Taira TOM’S +15.215s
7 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +17.412s
8 Seiya Motojima Rn-sports +25.572s
9 Roberto Merhi B-MAX Racing +26.208s
10 Nobuhiro Imada B-MAX Racing +52.255s
Pole: Ohta, 1m21.137s
Fastest lap: Ohta, 1m23.588s
Race 2 (18 laps)
1 Kotaka 28m28.249s
2 Kimura +0.961s
3 Ohta +7.352s
4 Suganami +8.990s
5 Furutani +11.761s
6 Taira +13.410s
7 Nonaka +19.747s
8 Motojima +20.300s
Ret DRAGON B-MAX Racing
P: Kimura, 1m21.229s
FL: Kimura, 1m22.281s
Race 3 (18 laps)
1 Ohta 25m14.493s
2 Kimura +1.099s
3 Nonaka +2.659s
4 Kotaka +5.000s
5 Taira +11.492s
6 Furutani +12.631s
7 Motojima +18.188s
8 Suganami +19.115s
9 Merhi +19.613s
10 DRAGON +33.339s
FL: Kimura, 1m23.492s
1 Kotaka 114 2 Ohta 108 3 Kimura 85 4 Nonaka 63 5 Taira 62 6 Furutani 45 7 Suganami 20 8 Kohta Kawaai 10 9 Reiji Hiraki 9 10 Yuya Hiraki 2