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  • Suzuka Circuit
  • Qualifying
  • : 2011-05-14 sat
    : 2011-05-15 sun
  • Suzuka Circuit : 5.807 km
    Race:38 Laps [220.666 km]


Lotterer comes from behind to win season opener
Kazuki Nakajima charges from 14th on the grid to finish 3rd


No.36 A.Lotterer

After an initial postponement due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the first round of the 2011 Japanese Championship Formula NIPPON series took place on May 14 and 15 at Suzuka Circuit. In the Saturday qualifying, Naoki Yamamoto in car No. 16 (TEAM MUGEN) won his first pole position in Formula Nippon competition. The winner of Sunday's race was the 6th-place qualifier Andre Lotterer in car No. 36 (PETRONAS TEAM TOM'S).


2011-05-14   Weather: Cloudy | Course: Dry/Wet

Second-year driver Yamamoto (22) outruns the top competitors to qualify 1st

No.16 Naoki Yamamoto

Formula NIPPON qualifying is run with the same knock-out format as F1. The favorite going into the qualifying was last year's Suzuka winner, Takashi Kogure in car No. 32 (NAKAJIMA RACING). In the first qualifying session (Q1), however, it was Naoki Yamamoto who outpaced Kogure to record the fastest time. Kogure came back to run the fastest time in Q2, but in Q3 it was Yamamoto again who turned in a magnificent lap to take pole position. One of the upsets in the qualifying came when Kazuki Nakajima in car No. 37 (PETRONAS TEAM TOM'S), who comes to Formula NIPPON this year after competing in F1, was knocked out of the qualifying in Q1 and left to start Sunday's race from 14th position on the grid.

No.32 Takashi Kogure
No.41 Koudai Tsukakoshi

No.32 Takashi Kogure / No.16 Naoki Yamamoto / No.41 Koudai Tsukakoshi


2011-05-15   Weather: Cloudy | Course: Dry/Wet

photo photo

Pit work decides the outcome in an evenly matched dead heat

Race day brought clear May skies over Suzuka Circuit. The air temperature at the 1:45 Formation Lap start was 23 degrees C. and the track surface temperature 35 degrees. After one lap of formation running, the machines took their positions on the starting grid for the official start. At the start, the pole-sitter Naoki Yamamoto in car No. 16 (TEAM MUGEN) spun his wheels and lost ground. Taking the lead instead was the 2nd-position starter, Kogure. Getting an excellent start and following Kogure into the first corner came Lotterer. Behind these two Yamamoto gave chase. Pulling up alongside Yamamoto came Koudai Tsukakoshi in car No. 41 (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING). Yamamoto was on the outside and Tsukakoshi on the inside as the two machines went through the first two turns. Neither would give and inch and they ended up colliding. Yamamoto's machine spun out and caused the car immediately behind him, No. 1 (TEAM IMPUL) driven by Joao Paulo Lima de Oliveira, to spin on the track as well, losing a lot of ground in the process. As the cars behind Oliviera's machine struggled to avoid it, the running order changed considerably.
No.32 Takashi Kogure
At the end of the opening lap the leader was Kogure, followed in order by Lotterer, Tsukakoshi, car No. 40 driven by Takuya Izawa (DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING, No. 7 driven by Kazuya Oshima (Team LeMans), Yuji Kunimoto in car No. 33 (Project μ/cerumo⋅INGING) and Takashi Kobayashi in car No. 10 (HP REAL RACING). In the ensuing laps the top two cars began to break away from the rest of the field.
From there, movements began while the race was still in its early stages. At the end of lap four, Nakajima returned to the pit to change tires and refuel. Two laps later it was Oliviera who came back to the pit, having dropped to 15th position after the spin-out. His team also changed tires and refueled the machine. Having completed routine stops in this way and with plenty of open track in front of them, these two drivers began pushing hard to get back in the race. Without seeing the machines in front of them, they were closing the time gap nonetheless.
No.37 Kazuki Nakajima
Meanwhile, there was some hot action going on among the rookies back in the pack. On the first corner of lap eight Andrea Caldarelli in car No. 3 (KONDO RACING), racing for the first time on the Suzuka course, managed to pass Alexandre Imperatori in car No. 18 (SGC by KCMG) from the outside. Then he began to close in on Kobayashi, who had been passed by car No. 2 (TEAM IMPUL) driven by Kohei Hirate. But, a breaking mistake at the entrance to the spoon curve of lap nine caused Caldarelli to hit the right rear tire of Kobayashi's machine. This sent both machines off the track and eventually out of the race.

Kazuki Nakajima uses tires skillfully after early pit stop

No.40 Takuya Izawa
Among the lead group, Izawa returned to the pit at the end of lap 12 while running in 4th position. After the pit stop he returned to the track to find himself behind Kazuki [Nakajima] (No. 37). On the next lap returned for his pit stop while running in 3rd position. A bit of trouble in the pit work caused a delay that caused Tsukakoshi to return to the race behind not only Kazuki but also Izawa and Oliveira. Then Oshima made his pit stop at the end of lap 15. Here again the result was that Oshima returned to the race behind Izawa and Oliveira as well. Eventually, when all was said and done, the machines that had finished their routine pit stops in the early stages of the race had worked their way into the lead group.
By this time, Kogure and Lotterer had opened up a lead over the rest of the group and were running at roughly the same pace. Each time Kogure picked up the pace, Lotterer made up the gap again to keep the battle intense. Here again, it was eventually the speed of the pit work that decided the outcome of this dead heat between the two leaders. Lotterer was the first to pull into the pit road at the end of lap 21. He was in and out of the pit in a fast 15.1 seconds. On the next lap it was Kogure's turn to make his pit stop, but a failure to get the nut on the left rear tire caused a costly delay that got him back into the race after a total of 18.7 seconds.
As a result, Kogure found himself now trailing Lotterer. It was perhaps his desperate push to catch Lotterer that made Kogure lock his tires on the hairpin and create a flat spot on one of them. This kept him from being able to pick up the face in the later stages of the race and prevented him from catching Lotterer. As for Lotterer, he managed to maintain a steady pace after his pit stop all the way to the checkered and his first win in a Formula NIPPON season opener. Kogure had to settle for 2nd place.
The next to cross the finish line in 3rd place after a considerable interval was Kazuki Nakajima, having turned the success of his early pit stop into an impressive podium finish in his Formula NIPPON race debut.
The next round of the series takes place at Autopolis (Oita Pref.) in three weeks. This is a race known for its heavy tire wear and it will be exciting to see what kinds of battles it will produce.

2nd: No.32 Takashi Kogure / Winner: No.36 Andre Lotterer, Nobuhide Tachi (No.36 Team Manager) / 3rd: No.37 Kazuki Nakajima

Winner comment

We won because we put together a very good race.
No.36 Andre Lotterer (PETRONAS TEAM TOM'S)
I feel great. I think I was able to win because the race came together so well. The biggest factor in this win was definitely the start. It was perfect, and the pace was good, too. I was running behind Kogure and thinking that if I just stayed there we could get the lead by faster pit work. The plan was to do the pit work in the shortest time possible and that is exactly what the pit crew was able to do, so I am really grateful to them. They enabled me to get in front of Kogure, just as planned.
After returning to the track I pushed hard at first to open up a gap, and then I was able to relax and enjoy the race. I have been competing in Formula NIPPON for nine years already and with this I was finally able to win the season opener for the first time. This makes for a very positive start, for the team and for me. Thanks to this, I will be able to keep my motivation high in the races to come.


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