Tsuboi Claims Victory
Sixteen drivers (15 of the 20 drivers scheduled to race in Super Formula in 2020) participated in the Super Formula virtual series special round using PlayStation® 4 Gran Turismo Sport software. 2020 Super Formula official machine coloring was used for this race.
After a drivers’ briefing, just like during race weekend, was held and network checks were conducted to ensure all the drivers, as well as race stewards were fully connected and ready to go, the qualifying got underway. The “super lap” qualifying saw the rookies enter the track first based on age (youngest to oldest), followed by drivers who finished in the lowest positions in the 2019 season through to the best finishing position. Sacha Fenestraz (KONDO RACING) recorded a 1’25.317 lap–which was better than Kamui Kobayashi’s 2018 course record at the same track (Autopolis) in 2018 of 1’25.799. But the next driver to do a time attack, Toshiki Oyu (TCS NAKAJIMA RACING), who finished 3rd in the National Gran Turismo competition, recorded a time of 1’23.939. This time was good enough to take PP in the race for Oyu. Finishing in a time of 1’24.135 to take P2 was Sho Tsuboi (JMS P.MU/CERUMO・INGING) and DOCOMO TEAM DANDELION RACING’S Nirei Fukuzumi in P3 with a time of 1’24.277.
The 32 lap (150 KM) Championship Race at Autopolis called for a mandatory tire change, with 7 seconds of pit loss time + a refueling time of 10 seconds. The pit window for refueling was set to be right around the 4th lap.
As the race got underway, Fukuzumi leaped out to a good start from P3. But Tomoki Nojiri was late to hit his brakes and pushed Fukuzumi out of the way. PP starter Oyu was also tangled up in this accident, which led to Kamui Kobayashi (carrozzeria Team KCMG) moving into P1, followed by Tsuboi, Ryo Hirakawa, and Kenta Yamashita (KONDO RACING)–who is also known for his video game expertise. On the 2nd lap in the main straight, after Kamui lost balance, Tsuboi took over P1, with Yamashita in P2, Hirakawa P3, and TCS NAKAJIMA RACING’S Tadasuke Makino in P4. Kamui pitted at the end of lap 4 for fuel and a tire change–which is a strategy he often uses in on track races to take over 1st place.
By lap 6, Oyu, who was caught up in the accident at the start of the race and fell down into last place, worked his magic to climb all the way back up into P9. He began battling it out with Sacha and also Kazuki Nakajima (VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S) and was able to overtake Sacha to move up into 8th in the 2nd hairpin.
Two of the cars at the top, P2 Yamashita and P3 Hirakawa began to battle it out for position as well. At the end of the jet coaster straight, Hirakawa was able to overtake Yamashita to move up into P2.
Because of network woes, Kamui Kobayashi was unable to re-join the race and had to retire–almost like the type of thing that happens in real races.
On lap 18, Tsuboi who was P1 and had raced at a solid pace to that point, and P2 running Hirawaka both pitted. Hirakawa snuck past Tsuboi, who took a little longer to fuel. By the time they both had made it out onto the course, Yamashita, who had already pitted, recorded the fastest time–which kept Hirawaka in P2 and Tsuboi in P3. With less than a 6 second lead over Hirakawa, Yamashita pitted for a 2nd time on lap 20 for another change of tires and fuel. That 2-pit strategy dropped Yamashita down into P5, but got past Hiroaki Ishiura (JMS P.MU/CERUMO・INGING) in the jet coaster straight end. Yamashita began pressuring P3 Oyu from there on out. At the same time, the battle for P1 also got more heated as Hirakawa had just a 1 second lead over Tsuboi. With just 2 laps to go, Tsuboi was slapped with a 0.5 second penalty for going off course. Just as it looked like it was Hirakawa’s day to shine, he went back into the pit on the final lap for enough fuel to finish out the race. This gave Tsuboi top position and he didn’t look back as he took the checkered flag for victory.
In the final lap of the race, there was yet another on track battle, which was between Oyu and Yamashita. Yamashita slipped past Oyu in the 3rd corner. He tried not to relinquish his position again, but Oyu was just too much for Yamashita to handle in the 1st hairpin. The battle continued on as Yamashita was able to pass Oyu once more, this time in the 2nd hairpin, as Oyu’s car began to suddenly slow down and come to a grinding halt because his fuel tank was empty.
The top 3 finishers in the Super Formula virtual series special round were Sho Tsuboi in P1, Ryo Hirakawa P2, and Kenta Yamashita in P3.