Hibiki Taira moved into the Super Formula Lights points lead in round three of the season at Suzuka.
The Toyota junior claimed race one pole by 0.298 seconds over Syun Koide, with Igor Fraga third fastest in Q1.
The track was foggy and damp for the race on Saturday, and Fraga started slowly then moved across to the inside and pushed two drivers onto the grass on the run to turn one.
Fraga then ventured onto the grass himself going up the S Curves, and when he rejoined he hit Iori Kimura and caused both to spin off. Fraga retired and recieved two penalty points, and the safety car came out which paused the battling ahead after Seita Nonaka had passed Koide for second.
Three drivers pitted for grooved tyres as it began to rain, and when racing resumed on lap four the drivers on slicks faced difficulty trying not to slide off. Taira was initially fine up front while drivers traded places behind while struggling for grip, but he then dropped back and Yuui Tsutsumi took the lead as David Vidales made his way from fifth to second.
Tsutsumi had a three-second gap after lap five, and on lap six Togo Suganami passed Taira for third at 130R. Vidales rapidly reduced Tsutsumi’s lead and moved past with a diving move at the hairpin. Suganami pased Ttsustumi a few corners later.
Suganami picked up a slipstream on the next lap and attacked Vidales at 130R, then passed him on the run to turn one. Taira relegated Vidales back to third at the hairpin, and the Spaniard lost two more places before the lap’s end.
Taira had a 2.5s gap to then make on Suganami, but could not match his pace and finished 5.888s behind the winner. Nonaka followed Taira home, while Koide had to do some weaving to keep his tyres warm and finish fourth.
Vidales ended up a distant sixth, and erstwhile points leader Kimura was a lapped 11th after his car was returned to track.
Kimura had a chance at redemption in race two on Sunday as he claimed pole by 0.122s over Nonaka. On the opening lap he built a 1.445s lead over him, then continued to pull away to win the 12-lap encounter by 7.31s.
Nonaka lost second on the last lap, as Taira made a move at the final chicane and had his nose ahead as they met the chequered flag.
Race three was another 12-lapper, and Suganami started on pole alongside Taira. A slow second phase of the launch meant Suganami was passed by Taira straight away, and the pair then managed their pace to finish first and second.
Nonaka followed them home in third, while the battle for fourth really heated up in the final laps and Enzo Trulli took the position ahead of Vidales and Kimura – who lost his points lead and started on the back row – and Koide dropped from fifth to seventh.
Race 1 (17 laps)
1 Togo Suganami B-MAX Racing 41m46.862s
2 Hibiki Taira TOM’S +5.888s
3 Seita Nonaka TOM’S +6.709s
4 Syun Koide Toda Racing +10.315s
5 Enzo Trulli TOM’S +11.166s
6 David Vidales B-MAX Racing +19.888s
7 Yuga Furutani TOM’S +31.502s
8 Takashi Hata B-MAX Racing +32.456s
9 Yuui Tsutsumi Rn-sports +40.341s
10 DRAGON B-MAX Racing +58.995s
Pole: Taira, 1m53.854s
Fastest lap: Igor Fraga, 2m09.724s
Race 2 (12 laps)
1 Iori Kimura B-MAX Racing 23m09.365s
2 Taira +7.310s
3 Nonaka +7.495s
4 Furutani +13.810s
5 Koide +14.672s
6 Vidales +16.709s
7 Trulli +17.075s
8 Suganami +18.531s
9 Igor Fraga B-MAX Racing +19.485s
10 Tsutsumi +20.926s
P: Kimura, 1m53.773s
FL: Kimura, 1m54.919s
Race 3 (12 laps)
1 Taira 23m28.856s
2 Suganami +1.245s
3 Nonaka +2.237s
4 Trulli +4.291s
5 Kimura +5.783s
6 Koide +6.224s
7 Fraga +7.950s
8 Furutani +11.405s
9 Tsutsumi +12.251s
10 Vidales +16.674s
FL: Taira, 1m56.217s
1 Taira 64 2 Kimura 62 3 Koide 30 4 Nonaka 23 5 Fraga 22 6 Furutani 18 7 Trulli 18 8 Suganami 17 9 Vidales 11 10 Tsutsumi 2