Cassidy the Super Formula victor in Suzuka

With live coverage finally in our neck of the woods, available on YouTube rather than a suspect stream, there’s every reason to be watching Super Formula this season. And if today’s first round at Suzuka, one of the all-time great Grand Prix circuits, was anything to go by, with Nick Cassidy storming through the field to win and attrition aplenty, it’ll be worth getting into.

The race started with Tadasuke Makino, formerly of F2, cementing his lead ahead of the battling Alex Palou. The opening laps remained fairly static, with few successful moves until Lap 7, when Cassidy, who qualified 12th, pitted for soft tyres. This would turn out to be a masterstroke, as only a few laps later, both 18 year old debutant Tristan Charpentier and stalwart Ryo Hirakawa went off at 130R and into the barriers, bringing out the first safety car.

This was where the madness kicked in. Palou, who had been straining to get past Makino at the start, was slapped with a drive-through penalty and served it just before the Safety Car was deployed, but the field bunching up did alleviate some of the damage. Dan Ticktum was slow to get into his pit box due to his Mugen team double-stacking, and a mechanic even acrobatically jumped over Cassidy’s car to change the wheels as quickly as possible.

Yuhi Sekiguchi’s car appeared to momentarily stop in the pitlane before he was able to get it going, but a lap later he pulled back into the pits and became the third of what would turn out to be a long list of retirees. Meanwhile, Cassidy was on the charge, his perfectly-timed pitstop jumping him up into 5th before he dispatched first Makino then Yuji Kunimoto to place himself 3rd. Shortly after, the safety car was out again: Kazuki Nakajima beached his TOM’S Toyota into the Degner 1 gravel, with a distracted Harrison Newey then following him into retirement at Degner 2.

Five retirements within 15 laps just signals the frantic drama Super Formula is good for, and a second safety car three laps later when Hiroaki Ishiura pulled into the pits and Palou’s machine gave up on him only furthered that point. From then on, Cassidy was into a prime position to win a race which looked for all the world yesterday evening to be an exercise in damage limitation. Kamui Kobayashi, the on-track leader, would have to pit again to use a different compound.

A third safety car was brought out this time by Makino, who’s car suffered a right-rear wheel nut failure and sent him into the gravel beside the run up to 130R. Makino would prove, finally, to be the last of the retirements, but there were still twists and turns up the road with Kobayashi trying to find the perfect slot to pit in, Cassidy managing to keep within arms’ reach, and the others jostling for podium/lower positions. Ticktum began to fall down the field, his airbox lighting glowing red (this signals a lack of attack mode – versus green for full, and blue for halfway used) and tyres appearing to be spent.

The final laps proved to be the killer for Kobayashi’s hopes of a strong finish. The late Safety Cars prevented the ex-Sauber F1 driver from banking a good result on a happy hunting ground for him, finishing tenth. Cassidy took the on-track lead on the final lap, and Kenta Yamashita was kept at bay in the end by Naoki Yamamoto, last season’s title winner. Cassidy lost that title by a point, but already, he’s taken first blood and cemented a troubling marker for his rivals.

Le Mans LMP1: Alonso adds to Triple Crown bid with #8 Toyota win

Toyota broke its 24 Hours of Le Mans curse with an emotional 1–2 finish led home by the #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso.

#8 and #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrids / Toyota Gazoo Racing

The Japanese marque was the overwhelming favourite coming into the 86th running of Le Mans, and aggressive opening stints from both Buemi and the #7 car’s Mike Conway soon put the two TS050 Hybrids well ahead of the privateer LMP1 entries battling for third.

The #7 gained the advantage late on Saturday when Buemi earned the #8 car a 60-second stop-go penalty for speeding in a slow zone. But a pair of rapid nighttime recovery drives by first Alonso and then Nakajima saw the #7’s lead disappear. Nakajima then completed the #8’s comeback in the 16th hour by snatching first place from Kamui Kobayashi on the inside of Arnage.

The #8 went on to hold the lead for the remaining eight hours, while the #7 dropped back after a series of late difficulties that included Jose Maria Lopez spinning at the Dunlop chicane and Kobayashi missing a pit stop and needing to take an extra lap at full course yellow speed to save fuel.

In the end Nakajima brought the #8 Toyota across the line with two laps in hand over Kobayashi in the sister car, which was a further ten laps clear of the #3 Rebellion in third. The win was Toyota’s first at Le Mans after 19 attempts and the first by a Japanese manufacturer since Mazda in 1991. Nakajima meanwhile became the first Japanese driver to win since Seiji Ara did so with Audi in 2004.

#3 Rebellion Racing R13 / Joao Filipe, WEC Media

Behind the Toyotas, Rebellion and SMP Racing immediately established themselves as the chief contenders for best-of-the-rest.

After Andre Lotterer lost the nose of his #1 Rebellion in a first lap collision, it was Thomas Laurent in the sister #3 who took charge of the Swiss team’s race by pressuring the #17 SMP of Stephane Sarrazin for third.

The two Frenchmen and their subsequent replacements swapped third and fourth position several times in the opening hours of the race, although the battle was eventually ended early and in Rebellion’s favour when Matevos Isaakyan spun the #17 into the barriers at the Porsche Curves shortly after midnight.

Isaakyan’s crash came not long after Dominik Kraihamer spun the #4 ByKolles out of the race at the same part of the track. The #10 Dragonspeed was another casualty of the Porsche Curves with Ben Hanley finding the barriers in hour 17, while the Manor-run #6 CEFC Ginetta and the #11 SMP were both waylaid by mechanical troubles to make it five LMP1 retirements by the end of the race.

That left the #1 Rebellion—which recovered from its opening lap crash and several late penalties to take fourth—and the #5 CEFC Ginetta, as the only surviving LMP1 cars outside of the podium.

#6 CEFC Ginetta G60-LT-P1 / Joao Filipe, WEC Media
©2017 The Pitcrewonline