On the back of his seventh race win of the 2017 All-Japan Formula Three Championship this past Saturday, and a subsequent second place finish on Sunday, B-Max Racing driver and Nissan Driver Development Programme top star Mitsunori Takaboshi was able to extend his leading margin to 26 points in the drivers’ championship.
Takaboshi split the winnings with Corolla Chukyo TOM’s driver Sho Tsuboi, who won Round 13 of the 2017 championship from pole position on Sunday, recovering from a first-lap clash with teammate Ritomo Miyata in Saturday’s Round 12.
Tsuboi followed up his double victory weekend at Suzuka Circuit two weeks ago by taking pole position for both Rounds 12 and 13 on Saturday morning. With two bonus points towards his tally, the opportunity was there for the sophomore driver to make huge inroads on championship leader Takaboshi, and second-place Álex Palou (ThreeBond with Drago Corse).
But those plans went awry when the green flag was waved for Saturday’s 15 lap race. Tsuboi and Miyata came together in the TGR Hairpin (Turn 1), after a great start on the outside front row for Miyata. It was a 50/50 racing incident that forced Tsuboi to retire after a handful of laps, and Miyata would have to recover to salvage a point for the day.
Out of the incident, Takaboshi led through the first corner, and had no problem holding off Hiroki Otsu (TODA Racing) as he claimed a convincing, wire-to-wire victory – his seventh win of the season – by 2.715 seconds. Otsu took his third podium of the season, and Palou rounded off the podium in third.
Sena Sakaguchi (HFDP Racing) finished in fourth place, with Ai Miura (Exedy B-Max Racing) in fifth, and Miyata recovering to finish sixth.
On Sunday, Tsuboi and Miyata had a second chance to atone for Saturday’s bizarre mishap in the 21-lap race held before Round 3 of the Super Formula Championship later that day. This time, Tsuboi got a perfect start, and led out of the first corner – with Takaboshi in hot pursuit, and a battle for third behind them involving Palou, Otsu, and Miyata that waged on for several laps.
Takaboshi put some pressure on, sizing up a move at Turn 1 on Lap 13 – but Tsuboi was able to consolidate the lead, and take his third victory of the season in a span of four races by just 1.227 seconds over Takaboshi in second.
Otsu managed to get past Palou on Lap 9, taking third place away from the Spaniard. Miyata and Sakaguchi rounded out the top six finishers.
In the N-Class, B-Max Racing driver DRAGON roared his way through to take his third and fourth consecutive victories of the season, bringing his total to eight victories on the season. DRAGON finished ahead of Masayuki Ueda (Rn-sports) in 2nd, and Alex Yang (HuaJiangHu Racing) in 3rd for both races.
In the championships, Takaboshi now leads by 26 points over Palou. Tsuboi was able to close down the margin to 2nd, but he’s still 41 points behind Takaboshi. Miyata is now firmly placed in fourth, as is Otsu in fifth.
A three-race meeting at Twin Ring Motegi is next, on July 29-30 – which will serve as a crucial point in the championship, with as many as 36 points available including bonuses for pole and fastest laps.