On May 16th and 17th, the second round of Japanese Championship Formula Nippon was held at Suzuka Circuit, which had completed a major reconstruction in April. No.2 Benoit Treluyer (LAWSON IMPUL) clinched the pole position in the qualifying on Saturday. No.31 Loic Duval (NAKAJIMA RACING) started from the third grid and passed Treluyer on the track to grab his first win of the season in the race held on Sunday.
No.2 Benoit Treluyer
Formula Nippon adopts a knock-out system for the qualifying which is consisted of three sessions where a certain number of slower drivers fall out after each session. Qualifying in Suzuka was held in the rain which caused a major storm on the track. Defending champion No.1 Tsugio Matsuda failed to put a hot lap at the right timing and unexpectedly fell out of the qualifying after Q2 with ninth position on the grid.
Matsuda's fellow Treluyer stayed back from taking a risk in the Q2 with a heavy rain and cleared the session with fifth position. He ousted No.36 Andre Lotterer (PETRONAS TOM'S) and Duval by a slight margin in the Q3 as the rain weakened to take his first pole since the season opener two years ago.
Qualifying Top 3 - 2nd: No.36 Andre Lotterer / PP: No.2 Benoit Treluyer / 3rd: No.31 Loic Duval
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No.2 Benoit Treluyer Polesitter Traluyer (LAWSON TEAM IMPUL) and the third qualifier Duval made a good start in the rainy race, with Duval passing Lotterer, who started from the front row besides Treluyer but caught in the paddle which dragged him back in the acceleration towards the first corner. After losing a position at the start, Lotterer decides to avoid a risk and wait for the two cars in front to make early pit stops, anticipating that they started with a lighter fuel tank. But his premonition misses. Lotterer could not fill up the gap of over ten seconds that built up between him and the front runners in the early stage and finished the race at third.
No.31 Loic Duval The heavy rain that started to shed over the circuit before the start made the track slippery enough to cause the champion Matsuda and Duval as well as Lotterer's Japanese teammate to go off the track, crash for some, one after another in the early stage of the turmoil race.
Despite the miserable condition, Treluyer and Duval showcased a spectacular driving that seemed to be in the different dimension from others. A huge amount of water sat on the track in the early stage of the race, and Treluyer was able to extend the gap behind him as he led the field, but at about when the 43-lap race completed one third of its distance, Duval started to close in the gap between Treluyer that was almost four seconds long at one point. Treluyer, on the other, had to work with under-steering that began to show as his fuel started to get lighter, making it difficult for him to drive at a faster pace. Consequently, Duval reached to a half second behind Treluyer at the end of Lap 16. From there on the two cars got into a close battle for about ten laps which captivated the whole crowd in the circuit. But Duval was a little over one second faster than Treluyer in the lap time. With the faster pace, Duval swayed behind Treluyer many times, and, on Lap 28, Duval put his nose right next to Treluyer on the outside as the two exited the Hairpin corner and successfully overtook him as going into the Spoon corner. After taking the lead, Duval pushed at full and extended his lead over Treluyer.
No.36 Andre Lotterer The racing field settled down in the final stage of the race and there was no close battle on the track. Duval on top,Treluyer and Lotterer, on second and third, were all running alone at their respective positions, but the leader never eased the pace, continued to clock on 1 minute 58 second, to the checkered flag to clinch his first win of the season.
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2nd: No.2 Benoit Treluyer / Winner: No.31 Loic Duval & Nakajima (Team Manager) / 3rd: No.36 Andre Lotterer