May 14 2016 Round. 3 Fuji

Sasaki wins high-speed battles at Fuji, his first victory since 2014

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Daiki Sasaki/B-MAX NDDP F3

■ B-MAX dominate the qualifying as Mardenborough and Sasaki take pole positions for Rd 3 and Rd 4 races respectively

The day after the practice sessions on Friday in good weather the qualifyings for Rd 3 and Rd 4 races of Japanese Formula 3 Championship started at 9:30 a.m. During both the qualifyings many of the drivers spend two laps to ensure warming up tyres before setting out on attacks. After the names on top of the leaderboard changed one after another it was Yann Mardenborough who secured a pole position for Rd 3 race in his B-MAX NDDP F3, his first pole in F3, having scored podium finishes in Rd 1 and Rd 2 at Suzuka. Second place went to Sho Tsuboi – who had topped the times in the practice sessions – ahead of Daiki Sasaki (in B-MAX NDDP F3).
With most of the drivers improving their times as a result of better conditions in the qualifying for Rd 4 race that started 10 minutes after the previous session Sasaki took a pole position, the only driver who posted under 1m 34 sec. The great results for the B-MAX Racing Team with NDDP can be attributed to its focus to reducing gaps to the TEAM TOM’S in sector two.
While in F3-N DRAGON took his first pole position in his career for Rd 3 race in his B-Max Racing F308 although he settled for second place for Rd 4 race due to what he would call a minor mistake behind Yoshiaki Katayama (Petit LM Racing) – who had took back-to-back victories in the Suzuka season opening races.

■ Sasaki wins Rd3 race from his team-mate Mardenborough

Jann Mardenborough/B-MAX NDDP F3

It was cloudy at 2:10 p.m. when the formation lap started for Rd 3 race. The pole-sitter Mardenborough kept the position at the start, followed by Tsuboi, Sasaki, Katsumasa Chiyo (B-MAX NDDP F3) and Kenta Yamashita (ZENT TOM’S F312), with Keishi Ishikawa (TODA FIGHTEX) dropping from the seventh position on the grid with a stalled engine.
As a precaution against the Volks Wagen A41 engine power the TEAM TOM’S launched on an offensive from early on in trying to improve their positions in the early stages. However the plan would ultimately backfire. Tsuboi aimed his ZENT TOM’S F314 down the inside of Mardenborough into the Dunlop on lap two but was held off crosswise, and instead saw Sasaki catching him at the exit as he lacked the acceleration, allowing the pursuer to pass him from the outside at the first corner a lap later and leaving the B-MAX Racing Team with NDDP in formation of 1-2.

Jann Mardenborough vs Daiki Sasaki

With this momentum Sasaki now would set about a spectacular battle with Mardenborough, while comfortably defending the second spot from Tsuboi, reducing the initial gap of 1.032 seconds to 0.465 seconds on lap seven and challenging the inside of his team-mate on lap eight before running side-by-side toward the Coca-Cola.
“Yann played so fair (in that battle)”, Sasaki reviewed.
This overtaking attempt would not work though as Mardenborough kept the lead by reclaiming the inside, and would continue to extend his margin until he “made some mistakes”.
In the closing stages Sasaki began to close in his team-mate again and finally snatched the lead at the first corner on lap 13, ending up with 0.612 seconds advantage at the line despite a last-ditch effort of Mardenborough to claim a first F3 win. It was Sasaki’s first F3 win since 2014 when he also won at Fuji in Rd 14 race.

Sho Tsuboi/ZENT TOM'S F314

A battle over a third place between the TEAM TOM’S pair was won by Tsuboi when Yamashita ran wide after attacking down the inside into turn one on lap 13. Yamashita would yield the fourth position to Chiyo on the final lap that he had gained from the same on lap two.
“I thought I should take a chance to dive up the inside of Chiyo, but the flat-spotted my tyres,” said Yamashita.
Six place was secured by Tadasuke Makino (TODA FIGHTEX) who had fought his way back from a late start.

■ Alex Yann claims his first victory after winning one of the closet battle in the F3-N history just with 0.014 sec advantage

DRAGON/B-Max Racing F308

In the meanwhile F3-N class saw very dramatic race developments from the start: DRAGON stalled his engine in the first position on the grid and then a spin at the first corner sent Katayama into retirement, ending his winning streak at two, and promoting Kizuku Hirota (Albirex F306TLM) into lead ahead of Zene Okazaki (Global Albi TLM), Alex Yang (Alex Yang Hanashima F3) and DRAGON.
“I found myself locked up at the first corner. Someone’s tyre hit my side pod and I spun. The suspension parts also broke,” said Katayama.
Although passing Okazaki on lap seven and closing in on Hirota on lap nine DRAGON was struggling to find an opportunity to overtake, the leading four gradually getting closer.

With each car getting exhausted a pack of these four was formed by the end of lap 12, and the spectators at Fuji Speedway would be very excited to see it go side-by-side into the final lap.
DRAGON was first with Hirota, Okazaki and Yang behind at the beginning of the final lap, in which further fortuitous developments were waiting for them.
First, there was a contact among the four and something in the Hirota’s rear broke, dropping him down the order, and then Okazaki spun himself and came to halt at the Advan. “In trying to challenge the car ahead at the Dunlop I went into the turn from the outside, but I was too far forward,” said the Albirex Racing driver.

Alex Yang/ALEX YANG Hanashima F3

It would leave DRAGON in front and Yang in second. With the former smoothly coming out of the final corner the latter slipstreamed, speeded up side-by-side and crossed the finish line just 0.014 seconds clear to claim his first career victory.
Yang admitted that he was really happy that all the efforts I have made paid off.
Hirota managed to get the chequered flag in third position behind DRAGON.

Result & Entry List PDF