SUPER FORMULA – Season’s opener round
Andrea Caldarelli in 7th, wins points from a formula race

Starting from this year, Japan’s highest class category, Formula NIPPON (by the former name) is re-introduced with the new name of “All-Japan Championship SUPER FORMULA Series”, and its inaugural round was held at the world-famous Suzuka Circuit International Racing Course (in Mie Prefecture) over the weekend of April 13-14th. GRM driver, Andrea Caldarelli took part in this season’s opening race with KYGNUS SUNOCO Team LeMans achieving a 7th place and a fine points earning result. (Spectator figures: 21,000 on Saturday; 29,000 on Sunday)

April 13th (Saturday)

Though slight chilliness was felt earlier in the day, Saturday unfolded under clear and pleasant skies. During the Free Practice session (9:05-10:05) in the morning, the session got under way with 19 machines giving aggressive time-attacks already from the morning. Andrea Caldarelli on car No. 8 powered by TOYOTA RV8K engine finished this session in P9 (with the time of 1’38.585). In fact, this session turned out to be quite a high-leveled, fierce competition with 14 machines giving out times, jostled inside a tight 1-second gap from the top.

Then at 13:50 (16 degrees C), the Q1 of the Official Qualifying on the knock-out style began (20 minutes session to decide the 15th – 19th of the race grid). Andrea Caldarelli on the steering of machine No. 8 marked 1’39.472 in his last attempt of time-attacks, claiming P10 and the step up to Q2. Then, following the 10 minute interval, the Q2 (of 7 minutes) began. There renewing his time from lap to lap, meanwhile the rival competitors also improved their times, and therefore Andrea placed 11th (1’39.286).

“After the free practice, we adjusted the setting towards the qualifying. In the Q1, I placed P10 and for the Q2 we tried changing the set-up slightly but not a large improvement could be made so there was a time loss especially in Sector 1. We will resolve this problem by the race, and try to have a machine condition like we had through our tests held at Fuji where we marked the top time. Let’s fight a good race tomorrow!”

April 14th (Sunday)

On Sunday, under somewhat hazy, springtime skies Andrea Caldarelli started the day as taking part in the Free Practice (from 9:10 to 9:40), with a full tank and to gain a race simulation practice. And after getting some nice feels from the practice runs before the race to come later in the day, Andrea spent a peaceful time socializing with the sponsor guests and fans during the few hours preceding the Start of the race.

Close to the time of scheduled Start (14:30), high above Suzuka Circuit (1 Lap: 5.807km) were wide-spreading clouds but Dry condition was announced for the race, and under the temperature of 18 degrees Celsius (Track: 27 degrees C), the 51 laps of race (approx. 300km in total) were to fire up any minute.

As the signals blacked out and the actions got under way, Andrea Caldarelli made a fabulous start from the 6th row and jumped up to P9 already in the opening lap! Then eventually, passing 1 machine on the 4th lap, further climbed to P8. At fast and steady pace, Andrea continued to drive with quick times marked, keeping his position. On the 27th lap, the young Italian driver went to pit in, and upon tyre change and refueling, Andrea back in the field maintained a constant pace chalking up good laps. Then, in the final lap, gaining one more position up, Andrea Caldarelli finished the season’s opening SUPER FORMULA race placing 7th, as scoring 2 points and with impressive performances shown!

“My start went well, and I overtook 3 machines. Then, I passed one another machine and kept up in the same pace as the machine going ahead. Only however, if you over-push at this circuit, it may hurt the tyres so I had to be careful. In the end of the first stint, tyres started to suffer and I requested my engineer to let me pit-in at that timing. This actually proved to be an effective strategy. In the last half, I pushed hard especially in the first two laps but the machine going in front also had a very quick pace and was difficult to catch up. Also having to worry about the risk of hurting the tyres by pushing too hard, I had to hold. But such judgment and decisions may have led to my 7th place finish today, so not bad!

For me, this was driving a formula car for the first time after almost a year and a half and competing in such a long and tough race. But I’m very glad to have earned some points and data for the team. I want to thank TOYOTA、KYGNUS SUNOCO Team LeMans and all of my fans who supported me this weekend. Thank you very much!”

Through GRM Official facebook, all the highlights from actions at each circuit and close-up on our GRM drivers are featured on a timely basis.

Photos by T.Moriyama