Formula NIPPON Rd.4 Fuji

LOIC DUVAL from his first Pole to the glorious second win of the season!

Over June 27 – 28, the Round 4 of All-Japan Formula NIPPON was held at Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Prefecture) for the second time this season. GRM driver Loic Duval, who in the previous round of this series held at Motegi had to depart soon from the race even starting from the front row, came onto this event aspired to redeem the last defeat.

In the morning of June 27th (Saturday), blessed with sunny weather seldom during the rainy season and with pleasant dry breeze blowing by, the day began with a Free Practice where the ‘prestigious’ NAKAJIMA RACING team – who has enjoyed excellent achievements already delivering consecutive victories with Duval winning the 2nd Round, and Kogure the 3rd Round – here the team was looking very strong again with both drivers Kogure (1’26.649) – Duval (1’27.089) clicking the top 1-2 times from the first session. The team proceeded to the afternoon qualifying heats with good confidence.
Qualifying session done on the knock-out style began at 13:45 where in the 20 minutes of Q1, the temperature rose as high as 27 degrees celsius (Track: 54 degrees C). Once again in this heat, the top time was marked by No. 32 (1’26.139) of NAKAJIMA RACING closely followed by No. 31 Loic Duval (1’26.163) coming in 2nd with just 0.024 seconds behind. This order went unchanged throughout the Q2 heat (10 minutes) as well, and finally in Q3 (10 minutes) while his Japanese teammate experienced a mishap making a half spin, NAKAJIMA’s French driver pushed the best he could, marking the time of 1’25.626 and captured his very first pole-position in Formula NIPPON (also earned 1 championship point).

“I got the Pole finally. During the morning, the machine condition was not as perfect and yet the times were pretty good. After some last adjustments made to the machine setting for the afternoon, in Q3 all my attempts worked out perfectly with no mistakes, so I felt confident about placing in the front rows. But only, about my taking the Pole, I wasn’t so sure since Kogure was very fast. Of course I am pleased to start the race from the pole position, but it’s tomorrow’s race results that will matter. I’ll do what I can to make the most out of this race and the great position I’m starting from.”
After all the qualifying heats, Director Satoru Nakajima and the crew organized a Birthday event for Loic Duval who had just turned 27. For the 27-year old French driver, the day was truly filled with many fantastic moments!

On the 28th (Sunday) – the Race day, Free Practice in the morning took place under cloudy skies with 13 cars in the field all giving last-tunings on their machines. Loic Duval put in 16 laps during this session with a full amount of fuel. “Machine has been finished to a great condition, so maybe the rest is up to weather…” said Loic looking up into the skies.

The Race began at 14:30 but under the rain which started pouring down over Fuji Speedway from around noon. As it turned into a good amount of rain, the race had to start behind the Safety Car.
No. 31 Loic Duval on NAKAJIMA RACING whose trademark is the black PIAA-color over a white body, started from the pole position then for the first few laps worked at warming up the tyres and grasping the feel of their response to the rainy-wet surface. Then, on the 4th lap when it was time to re-start, No. 31 kicked off high splashes of water-screen, in no time seized the 1st Corner as the race leader, then went far, far ahead of everyone creating a large distance apart from the 2nd and behind. The machine was under excellent control with superb driving shown by Loic in spite of the difficult conditions, with fastest times recorded but soon overwritten by the next fastest time! After 27 laps, which was halfway through the race (of all 55 laps), No. 31 was in complete domination, with almost a 24-second lead from the 2nd position. However, in the 34th Lap the Safety Car (SC) came in again as there was a machine that had stopped on the course, so Loic was not to miss this moment and swiftly went in for pit stop. After speedy pit actions done, the leader returned to the array of SC guiding the field, and then everyone re-started on Lap 39.
Due to this SC run, that huge margin built from the backfield had been wiped away, but this was actually not such a big deal for nobody could outperform Loic’s stunning race pace that day, and soon the gap grew back from lap to lap. By the 46th lap, his fastest time was written over by himself again with an overwhelming 1’40.822 – just brilliant! In the end, an absolute victory was won with more than 40 seconds lead from the 2nd place winner, where Loic Duval found himself capturing not only his second glory of the season, but also in terms of the points ranking, closing in with the leader Benoit Treluyer (LAWSON TEAM IMPUL, No.2) now at just 1 point behind. This will put last year’s Formula NIPPON vice champion in good shape to go onto the next round as a strong contender.

“Today the rain was occasionally strong, but also eased off sometimes, and added with the aquaplaning the condition was very uneasy. It was really a tough race. Then, with the SC coming in, the gap I had earned by then became zero at one time, so I had to re-do my push all over again. But the team prepared for me a very strong machine, which allowed me to finish the weekend with an excellent outcome. In the last round, I lost my own race with the large mistake I made, but with this one (pole-to-win) I got it back. In the last half of the series, I will do the utmost with everyone in my team united and working as one!”

“The race was under very difficult weather conditions, but Loic pushed hard to the limits, took the second win of the season, and on top of that, even took his first “Pole” so what a great way to finish the weekend! I’m very grateful. “

Photos by T.Moriyama