The two-time champion was defeated in a direct battle by Lawson on Saturday. However, Nojiri got back with an easy victory starting from pole position in the second race.
After finishing second in the first race, Nojiri said that it wasn’t a shock to see Lawson performing so well since he is similar to another team-mate of his – Stoffel Vandoorne, who he shared a garage with in 2016.
Hirakawa said losing to Lawson was a huge disappointment for the championship. Yamashita cried after getting his first podium finish in the Super Formula since 2020.
Nojiri admitted he feared people might doubt the level of Japanese series, and his own talents. He said that Vandoorne drove quickly from the start and he expected Liam (Lawson) would be just as fast.
At first I doubted that I would often be outrun by my team-mate, however, this year looks more challenging. If I won’t keep up this year people will not consider Super Formula a strong sport and I don’t want that feeling on my shoulders. It isn’t easy to stay ahead this year, right?
Nojiri was determined to make changes to his car before the Sunday Fuji race, just like he did in 2022 after being defeated by Ryo Hirakawa in the first race.
During the race, Toshiki Oyu took over Nojiri as the leader. But then a safety car period happened and everyone had to pit at the same time – Nojiri managed to get back on top with that break!
Nojiri was able to take the lead thanks to clever pit-work from his Mugen team. Despite Oyu’s attempt to overtake him at the restart, Nojiri stayed in first place and eventually won the race. Afterwards, Nojiri said that being the Japanese champion meant that he had a lot of pressure to win this time around. He added that his team was quick throughout the whole race which allowed him to gain victory.
I was really hoping to win the race, so it was a big relief when I did. Being the champion, I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose because people would think less of me.
I felt a lot of pressure leading up to today’s race but managed to stay concentrated. My qualifying time was ideal and we brought an awesome car for the competition. All in all, my team did a perfect job this whole day.
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