Liam Lawson has moved to within a single point of the Super Formula Championship lead by winning Sunday’s race at Fuji Speedway. Lawson would take the net lead following an early stop, emerging at the front once the pit window closed to take a five-second victory over Tadasuke Makino.
Championship leader Ritomo Miyata would move into third with a pass on Ren Sato shortly after the race’s mid-point to take 11 points away from the race to boost his season total to 86, one more than Lawson’s 85.
Defending champion and Lawson’s Team Mugen teammate Tomoki Nojiri had a difficult race and would only manage an eighth-placed result.
Sato would be passed by a late stopping Ryo Hirakawa on the final lap, the 2022 World Endurance Championship winner finishing fourth, having started 20th on the grid.
There was no stopping the Kiwi, however, who charged to his third win in six races to continue his march towards a Formula 1 seat.
Lawson would get a steady start off the front row, but pole-sitter Makino launched well to lead into Turn 1, only to run wide into the right-hander and open a gap on the inside.
The Kiwi jumped at the opportunity to run side-by-side with the leader before eventually dropping in behind to hold second into Turn 3.
Elsewhere, Miyata had started well and moved up to fourth from his starting spot of seventh, but Makino and Lawson began to pull clear, the Kiwi holding a two-second gap over third-placed Naoki Yamamoto by the end of Lap 4.
The Kiwi driver would remain within one second of the lead over the laps that followed while his main championship rivals struggled to make ground on the leading duo.
The pit window would open on Lap 10, with a flurry of stops from mid-field runners seeing Lawson come in at the end of the following lap to prevent an undercut.
Makino would follow a lap later to cover Lawson, re-emerging in the lead but on much colder tyres. Lawson would pass his rival to lead the cars that had stopped in eighth.
The Kiwi would maintain a two-second gap over Makino through the race mid-stages, gradually gaining positions as drivers ahead began to make their stops.
Once everyone had ventured to the pits, Lawson would take the race lead, with Makino holding second and Ren Sato in third. Miyata would sit fourth, while Nojiri, who had struggled for pace all day, sat sixth and defending a charging Yamamoto.
Miyati would get past Sato for third on Lap 30 while Yamamoto made a pass on Nojiri the following lap. Hirakawa, who had started 20th, would relegate the defending champion to eighth a lap later.
Lawson’s lead over Makino sat at 3.5 seconds with eight laps to run, with Miyata a further 10 seconds down the road in third.
That was how the front three would play out, with Hirakawa’s charge bringing him to fourth and leaving Sato fifth.
Super Formula returns for Round 7 at Mobility Resort Motegi on August 18-20.
Header Image: Dutch Photo Agency/Red Bull Content Pool