Formula NIPPON Rd.1 Fuji

Loic Endures Tough Race with 10th as Only 12 Cars Finish


Loic Duval, who had just announced his first participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours in his home country France, moved the stage to Fuji Speedway in Japan, where he participated in the in the first round of the 2008 All-Japan Formula Nippon season.


Comfortable weather with temperatures of 17 degrees (ambient) and 27 degrees (track) greeted competitors on Saturday, April 5th for the qualifying session contested by 20 entrants, though the circuit faced a Mt. Fuji still covered in snow. This year’s qualifying session uses a knock-out format, comprised of three sessions in the afternoon, after a 30-minute practice session in the morning. The fastest driver in the final session starts in pole position.
In the first 20 minutes, the top 15 cars’ positions are decided. Here, Loic took the fourth quickest time 1’25.308, advancing to the second session. After an interval of 10 minutes, the second session (10 minutes) was held, Loic also netting fourth place (1’25.073). In the third and final session (also 10minutes) a few others improved their times, as did Loic, who set a 1’24.820, seventh best. He would start Sunday’s race from the fourth row on the grid.


Loic Duval:“The set up on the car was good in yesterday’s practice, though the car suffered from both oversteer and understeer in the high-speed corners as road conditions changed a little today. We dug deep but didn’t get where we wanted in qualifying as we had some trouble with the brakes. We were hoping for a third or fourth-place result. However, the car is well-balanced on used tyres, and we’ll be aiming for victory tomorrow in what is going to be a long and challenging race.”


The following day, Sunday, April 6th dawned bright and sunny, drawing a lot of fans to the circuit. Formula Nippon’s season debut at Fuji Speedway featured 20 drivers, including no fewer than five rookies who all gathered together for a group photo in front of the fans ahead of the 65-lap opening round of the season.


At 2:30pm, the lights went out, and Loic Duval in the 31 PIAA NAKAJIMA machine blasted off the line from the fourth row. By the first corner, he had jumped into sixth place, stealing a position on a car in front. However, a lock-up gong into the Dunlop corner on the third lap flat-spotted a tyre. This necessitated an earlier than planned pitstop, Loic coming in on lap 8. The tyres were changed and fuel added, and he headed back out on track for a long drive ahead.
When the other cars made their routine pitstop toward the mid-point of the race, the order was revised and Loic ran between 9th and 10th. However, when passing his teammate in the 32 car on lap 41, his out lap (with his tyres still not up to temperature), Loic once again locked up at Dunlop corner. The car belched out white tyre smoke, Loic making the same flat spot in the tyre again after making his second pit stop. He maintained his position of tenth to the flag.


Loic Duval:“There was trouble with the brakes right from the beginning. Therefore, in the race I wasn’t able to attack as I had wanted – even though my start had been so-so. It was remarkable that the flat spotting occurred in exactly the same place, Dunlop, and is clearly the symptom of a situation. We’ll fully check the problem, and push for the best possible result in the next round at Suzuka, aiming for nothing less than a great result.”

Photos by T.Moriyama