September 24, 2016 Rd.15 Rd 15 Sportsland SUGO

Yamashita claims his fifth win of the season to slash Mardenborough’s championship lead
Katayama flavours his F3-N crown with a victory

Kenta Yamashita / ZENT TOM'S F312

■ Yamashita adds a point with securing pole position

Qualifying order is a critical factor at Sportsland Sugo where it is difficult to overtake even for those in contention for the championship.
It was another sunny day on Saturday September 24 but flexibility for teams and drivers to respond to the situation might be tested for Rd 15 that would start at 10:20 am qualifying, possibly in different track conditions because of a heavy rain after two practice sessions on Friday. Besides, it can vary a lot if the session takes places just after Super Formula.
With each car doing three laps for warming up before launching attacks Kenta Yamashita topped the times with 1m13.253 in his ZENT TOM’S F312 and scored a point, the result putting him within just seven points of Yann Mardenborough (in B-MAX NDDP F3) in the point standings – who was qualified third with 1m13.605 that he posted on his second attack behind Katsumasa Chiyo (B-MAX NDDP F3).
Sho Tsuboi (ZENT TOM’S F314) was “too determined” to turn his momentum since Thursday’s practice sessions into good result after running wide to settle for fifth place with a time of 1m13.659 behind Tadasuke Makino (TODA FIGHTEX).
Scoring a point by taking pole position of F3-N with 1m17.262 Yoshiaki Katayama (Petit LM Racing) got one step closer towards 2016 champion while Masayuki Ueda (Rn-sports F308) qualified second on his second running in F3-N ahead of DRAGON (B-Max Racing F306) – who has a slim chance of becoming a champion.

■ Yamashita leads away from pole position

Start of Japanese Formula 3 Round 15

Each driver looked somewhat tense when they lined up on the grid for the final race week in 2016 three hours after qualifying in dry conditions under cloudy skies.
Yamashita got a good start from pole position to extend his lead to 1.764 secs at the end of the opening lap while right behind him Mardenborough made an overtaking move on another front-row starter Chiyo from the outside, but the order of the two did not change.
Despite still with his interest in the title battle Tsuboi “screwed up” off the line, dropping down the order from fifth to seventh behind Keishi Ishikawa (TODA FIGHTEX) and Hiroki Otsu (HFDP RACING F312). From here Tsuboi would struggle with unfruitful overtaking attempts on Otsu into closing stages.
Now on his favourite pattern of pulling away in early stages Yamashita was continuing to extend his lead of 3.493 secs he had at the end of lap 5 while second place Chiyo briefly extended his advantage over Mardenborough but the gap would be reduced to less than a second after lap 10. “Maybe Yann had better pace,” admitted Chiyo.

■ Chiyo suffers an unexpected accident

Katsumasa Chiyo leads Jann Mardenborough

Yamashita’s lead, however, would be wiped out when Chiyo went off the track and impacted the tyre barrier at the final turn on lap 15, dropping him out of contention and prompting the safety car. “I got understeer just past the halfway point and then ran off the racing line. After that I couldn’t recover my balance.”
With the race resuming on lap 21 after the safety car period Yamashita immediately put the hammer down from SP Turn and pulled away, eventually taking the chequered flag 1.594 secs ahead of Mardenborough. The result coupled with a point earned by another pole position for Rd 16 means Yamashita has moved to within 2 points of the championship lead Mardenborough.
The safety car restart also saw Tsuboi rocket to fourth position after passing Otsu at turn one and then overtaking Ishikawa at turn one on lap 23. With this momentum the TOM’S closed in on Makino on the final lap and “successfully slipstreamed” just before the control line for the final podium spot in third, with Makino in fourth ahead of Ishikawa.
Elsewhere Tairoku Yamaguchi (Tairoku Racing #28) got rear-ended by Ai Miura (EXEDY B-Max Racing F312) at the final turn on the restart lap, sending the both into retirement. “I was held up as a car ahead suddenly dropped off the pace,” said Yamaguchi.

Yoshiaki Katayama crownd F3-N champion.

■ Katayama reasserts his advantage with victory in Rd 15

Leading away from F3-N pole position Katayama immediately set about opening up his advantage, while behind him a B-MAX team battle would be fought between Ueda and DRAGON.
After running tail-to-nose in the opening stages DRAGON finally caught his team-mate for second place as Ueda slightly ran wide at the exit of Umanose Turn on lap 11. “I have driven the Ueda’s car, so I understand the characteristics,” said DRAGON. When the overtaking move was completed Katayama was enjoying almost a five-second lead.
Never losing his concentration Katayama won the Rd 15 race and flavoured his F3-N crown he had sealed in Rd 16 qualifying. Ueda claimed his maiden F3-N podium finish in third place.

Result & Entry List PDF