July 7, 2018 Round. 5 Fuji Speedway

Tsuboi wins an exciting Fuji race, making it a fifth consecutive victory from five races, Sakaguchi 2nd
Sasahara claims his first podium finish in 3rd

Sho Tsuboi(Collora Chukyo Kuo TOM'S F317)

Heavy rain was beginning to ease off at Fuji Speedway when the 30-min qualifying for the Japanese Formula 3 Championship Rd 5 and Rd 6 races was started at 8:30 am on Saturday July 7th. The track was still wet but the volume of water was not as much as seen earlier in the morning.

Maintaining a strong performance in the three qualifying sessions in each of which he topped the times Sho Tsuboi in Corolla Chukyo Kuo TOM’S F317 quickly posted 1m51.998 on lap two, and reduced it to 1m51.995 a lap later.

Start of Japanese F3 Round.5

Yu Kanamaru (in B-MAX RACING F3) moved up to third on his fourth lap with 1m52.769 behind Sena Sakaguchi (TODA FIGHTEX). Each car got back to the pits after five or six laps.

Every driver set about their second attacks as about 15 minutes passed from the start of the session, and despite the rain slightly getting heavier many improved their times including Sena Sakaguchi, Ritomo Miyata (Corolla Chukyo Kuo TOM’S F317) and Toshiki Oyu (TODA FIGHTEX) and – who reduced his times to 1m52.348 with less than 7 minutes remaining. With just 2 minutes to go Kanamaru posted 1m52.162 to secure second. Oyu further improved his times on his last lap to 1m52.230 to secure third.

It was Tsuboi who ultimately took a pole position for Rd 5 race, as his early 1m51.995 was never broken. Sakaguchi was fourth and Miyata was fifth. With a controlled drive in the wet conditions Yuuki Nemoto (Albirex-RT) was able to up his pace in the final laps to place sixth.

■Early dogfight in leading pack

Sakaguchi vs Sasahara

The rain had stopped before formation lap of Rd 5 race was started at 1:30 pm, and all the drivers went out to the track that had been dried during a pit-walk and a Super Kart race with slick rubber, the first experience for the entire field in this weekend.

Tsuboi pulled away from pole position and dived into TGR at the front, while the second start Kanamaru dropped down the order, ceding the spot to Sakaguchi, who had slipped down the inside of Oyu.

Running wide at the start of the race Oyu allowed Miyata to get the jump on, but quickly snatched back the third place at Dunlop on the opening lap. Once Miyata lost another place to Ukyo Sasahara (THREEBOND) the trio went 3-wide on the main straight on lap two before the ThreeBond held off Oyu for third on lap three. This settled the order of top three, which would be maintained to the end.

Ukyo Sasahara(THREEBOND)

Behind them Kanamaru began to fight his way back, overtaking Nemoto in P6 on lap three to run up into the points.

The mid-race was characterised by a fierce battle over seventh place fought by Shunsuke Kohno (HubAuto F318), Yoshiaki Katayama (YTB F318) and Nemoto in front. It ended up with Kohno beating the others. Nemoto ultimately lost out to Katayama.

■Tsuboi maintains his lead to the flag
Sakaguchi firmly defends second from Sasahara

Meanwhile Sasahara was charging Sakaguchi at a good pace. On the tail of Sakaguchi on lap nine he made a series of strong overtaking attempts at TGR, Advan and Dunlop, but his more degraded rubber as the result of early battles was unable to break Sakaguchi’s firm defense.

Sena Sakaguchi(TODA FIGHTEX)

Tsuboi enjoyed a lonely race at the front, gradually opening up his lead over Sakaguchi to 7.368 sec at the chequered flag and extending his winning streak from the opening round to five. Sakaguchi held on to the second place, his best F3 result since Rd 14 in 2016. Setting the fastest lap Sasahara claimed his first F3 podium finish in three.

Fifth finisher Oyu was later promoted to fourth after Miyata was given post-race penalty for overtaking outside of the track.

While it must have been a regrettable race for the front-row starter Kanamaru nevertheless ended up in fifth ahead of Kohno, picking up two points.
Jake Parsons completed the race again, scoring F3-N full-marks.