As part of the opening weekend of the 2017 Autobacs Super GT Series at Okayama International Circuit, two other championships kicked off as the supporting events for last weekend’s Okayama GT 300km Race.
The FIA F4 Japanese Championship began this past weekend at Okayama, the official support category of Super GT beginning its third season of competition, as well as the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan series.
HFDP Racing drivers Ukyo Sasahara and Yuki Tsunoda picked up their first Japanese F4 victories at Okayama, while Sky Racing’s Yuichi Mikasa had a perfect weekend, taking two wire-to-wire victories in the Carrera Cup.
In Japanese F4, defending champion Ritomo Miyata is back to attempt to become the first back-to-back champion of an FIA Certified Formula 4 series in the young history of the platform. He kicked off his title defense with pole positions for both races, but on the first of fifteen laps, Sasahara, who started second, made his move for the lead at the Hairpin Corner, and began to pull away from the defending champion.
Sasahara would lead the rest of the way to win in his Japanese F4 debut by 1.6 seconds over Miyata. 16-year-old Yuki Tsunoda would finish third, in a second of four HFDP Racing entries.
21-year-old Sasahara is already a race winner in Eurocup Formula Renault, and has driven in the European Formula Three championship as a wildcard last season – but the move back to Japan has already paid dividends for a driver who has shown glimpses of greatness overseas.
Come Sunday morning, the track would be wet, and Miyata fell from pole position to third on the opening lap as Tsunoda and Sasahara went past to break away from the field.
Sasahara would do all he can to keep it close, but in the wet conditions, young Yuki Tsunoda – in just his fourth career single-seater race after graduating from karting – won by just 0.6 seconds over Sasahara. Takuya Otaki, in yet another HFDP Racing entry, finished third, while Miyata dropped to sixth in the second race of the weekend.
After two races, Sasahara leads Tsunoda in the championship standings, 43 to 40, with Miyata third at 26 points.
In Porsche Carrera Cup Japan, second-year driver Yuichi Mikasa had the perfect weekend to kick off his championship bid, taking two wins, two pole positions, and leading every lap en route to a dominant weekend performance at Okayama.
The 2016 Porsche Scholarship recipient won both races, ahead of this year’s recipient, Yuki Kamimura in the #17 Garmin Porsche, who finished second in both races. Gentleman driver Shinji Takei finished third overall in both races, winning the Gentleman category twice as a result.
Managed by the same Dream Racing Project agency that also manages top Super GT rookie Sho Tsuboi and leading lady in Japanese F4 Miki Koyama, Yuichi Mikasa hopes to become the latest in a lineage of dominant champions to make the jump to Super GT out of the PCCJ – including Hideto Yasuoka (undefeated champion in 2011), Ryo Hirakawa (2012), Yuya Motojima (2015), and most recently, Tsubasa Kondo (2016).