Toyota junior Rikuto Kobayashi won both Japanese Formula 4 races at Fuji Speedway to extend his championship lead.
Kobayashi was beaten to pole for both races by Honda junior Yuto Nomura, but by small margins. Nomura claimed race one pole by 0.182 seconds, and on second-best laptimes took race two pole by 0.07s.
At the start of race one, Nomura immediately swept to the inside. He then locked his front-right tyre going into turn one, and Kobayashi got alongside exiting the corner.
Nomura asserted himself in the lead at turn three, as Kobayashi dropped to third behind fellow Toyota junior Jin Nakamura. That helped Nomura create a small gap, but then the safety car was called out due to an incident involving Yuki Mishima and Ryoma Henzan.
Racing resumed on lap four, and Nomura held off Nakamura into turn one. Nakamura managed to take the lead at turn three, then Kobayashi swept past Nomura a short while later. He spent the first half of the next lap trying to go for the lead, but had a brief off, then he tried again at turn one on lap six.
He finally claimed the lead on lap seven of 14, going around the outside at turn one and getting the move completed at turn three. Nomura also got past Nakamura, then moved back ahead of Kobayashi before he went down the inside at chicane to reclaim first place.
Tosei Moriyama joined the battle and was in third before the end of the lap. He tried pressuring Nakamura on lap eight, but by lap nine was in defence instead against Yusuke Mitsui. On lap 10 they went side-by-side through the first few corners, and soon had sixth place attacking them.
Kobayashi established a lead of 0.6s which he held to the finish, despite Nomura sitting in his tow for many laps. Nakamura was just behind, benefitting from a double slipstream but not passing, and Mitsui took fourth after battling with Moriyama on lap 13.
He tried the outside of turn one and inside of turn two, then went outside and inside for turns three and four, but did not move ahead until the chicane as Moriyama went in way too deep.
Series returnee Jiei Okuzumi passed Rin Arakawa in a battle for sixth, then pressured Moriyama at the end.
Nomura repeated his start technique in race two, but lost the lead on lap three as Kobayashi slipstreamed past down the pit straight. Nakamura took second from Nomura at the chicane on lap four, and they were fighting on lap five when the safety car came out due to Isao Nakashima spinning at turn one.
Racing resumed on lap eight and Nakamura went on the inside of Kobayashi while Nomura went to the outside. Both were ahead of him before turn one, although Kobayashi reclaimed second from Nomura there a lap later.
“Kentaro” going into the gravel there meant yellow flags were out at turn one for the remaining laps, reducing overtaking opportunities in the lead pack of five. Kobayashi therefore got his race-winning move done down the pit straight on the final lap.
Race 1 (14 laps)
1 Rikuto Kobayashi TGR-DC RS 27m40.100s
2 Yuto Nomura HFDP +0.565s
3 Jin Nakamura TGR-DC RS +0.861s
4 Yusuke Mitsui HFDP +5.144s
5 Tosei Moriyama HFDP +6.134s
6 Jiei Okuzumi Helm Motorsports +6.955s
7 Rin Arakawa Zap Speed +7.856s
8 Kento Omiya PONOS Racing +8.515s
9 Itsuki Sato Helm Motorsports +8.767s
10 Kazuhisa Urabe Bionic Jack Racing +9.324s
Pole: Nomura, 1m46.174s
Fastest lap: Ryota Horachi, 1m46.901s
Race 2 (14 laps)
1 Kobayashi 27m20.157s
2 Nakamura +0.350s
3 Nomura +0.894s
4 Mitsui +1.099s
5 Yuki Sano TGR-DC RS +1.497s
6 Moriyama +3.443s
7 Ryoma Henzan Buzz Racing +4.471s
8 Arakawa +6.527s
9 Sato +7.008s
10 Shunji Okumoto TGR-DC RS +7.222s
P: Nomura, 1m46.412s
FL: Kobayashi, 1m46.875s
1 Kobayashi 120 2 Nomura 81 3 Mitsui 74 4 Nakamura 66 5 Moriyama 60 6 Arakawa 42 7 Okumoto 32 8 Sano 31 9 Sato 20 10 Ryota Horachi 14