Former F4 Japanese Champion and Super GT rookie standout Sho Tsuboi finally dropped a heavy weight off his shoulders, thanks to two victories and two long-awaited first career victories in the All-Japan Formula Three Championship at Suzuka Circuit.
Tsuboi captured pole position for both Rounds 10 and 11 of the 2017 All-Japan F3 Championship during the Suzuka Clubman Race event, then held off the challenge of two different series newcomers by less than a second to take his first and second wins of the season.
The front row of both races were locked out by the Corolla Chukyo TOM’s Dallara/Toyotas of Tsuboi and rookie teammate Ritomo Miyata. Championship leader Mitsunori Takaboshi (B-Max Racing) qualified 5th and 3rd for the two races respectively.
Tsuboi and Miyata ran nose-to-tail for the entirety of the first twelve-lap race on Saturday. Despite pressure from the 17-year-old rookie Miyata, it was Tsuboi who was able to hold on, finally taking his first F3 victory by 0.901 seconds.
Takaboshi moved his way into third with four laps to go, and held on for the final podium position, ahead of Álex Palou (ThreeBond with Drago Corse) in fourth, Hiroki Otsu (TODA Racing) fifth, and Ye Hongli (KRC B-Max Racing) completing the points in sixth.
Last season, Tsuboi led the series with 15 podium finishes of 17 races in his first year of Formula 3, but had never won a race until this weekend.
In race two (Round 11), the track was damp from earlier rain. Tsuboi got a good start from the outside line, while Miyata dropped to fourth behind Takaboshi and Palou. Palou would then swing past his championship rival Takaboshi into second place on lap 2, and start putting the pressure on Tsuboi up front.
But despite the best efforts of the young Spaniard, Tsuboi would once again hold on to take his second win of the year by less than a second over Palou, with Takaboshi holding on to complete the podium places in third. Miyata finished fourth, ahead of Otsu in fifth, and last year’s National Class champion, Yoshiaki Katayama (Okayama Kokusai Circuit RC) in sixth in his Mercedes-engined car.
DRAGON (B-Max Racing) took N-Class victories in both races, finishing ahead of Masayuki Ueda both times. Alex Yang was third in Race 1, Ryoya Hasegawa was third in Race 2.
In the standings, Takaboshi still has a 15 point lead over Palou, but thanks to his two wins, Tsuboi has now drawn a bit closer to the two leaders, with a 34 point deficit going into Rounds 12 and 13 on July 8-9 at Fuji International Speedway.