With a spectacular weekend at Hungaroring, Juju Noda claimed her first overall podium in Euroformula with a great run in race 2 and battled for the race win until the last lap in race 3, showing great pace in what was one of her best performances in formula cars.
Juju Noda enjoyed by far her best weekend in Euroformula Open to date, with a remarkable round at Hungaroring that saw the Japanese rookie securing her first top five, her first overall podium, two rookie wins, as well as a battle for the overall win in race 3.
Noda, 17, is contesting her first season in Euroformula, at the wheel of the highly-propaedeutic Dallara 320 car that has often proven to be one of the best cars for learning young drivers.
At the previous round at Spa Francorchamps, Noda had topped her best result of the season with a sixth place finish in race 3, as well as her second rookie class victory.
Coming into Hungaroring, Noda aimed even higher, having previous experience of the track from last year's W Series where she had scored her best result of the season - a ninth place that gained her two points in the all-female series.
At the twisty 4.381 km track just outside of Budapest, Noda was once again brilliant from the get-go: a fifth place in the first practice, followed by a second place in FP2, just behind championship leader Noel Leon (Motorpark) and ahead of returning driver Josh Mason, already a three time race winner in 2022.
Noda kept momentum in qualifying and bagged a fifth place - half a second off pole position - after leading the session in the closing minutes. Her extraordinary performance meant that Noda would start from the third row in race 1 and from second place in both race 2 and 3.
Noel Leon and Cian Shields battled in the first corners for the lead, but the Mexican managed to hold on to his first place after pole position. From fifth, Juju Noda had a good start and mingled between the Motopark cars, ahead of Aron, Bergmeister and Berta.
Leon pulled away, as Mason and Simonazzi closed in on Shields for second.
Noda spent the opening laps trying to fend off Aron - which she did successfully, as the young Japanese driver opened a safe margin that allowed her to even get closer to the group of cars ahead, battling for the overall podium. Noda matched the race leader's pace and was at one point nine tenths faster than Simonazzi ahead as she started to put pressure on the Italian driver.
Leon took his third win of the season - but behind him, five cars were running within one second to each other in a very close battle for the top three. Juju Noda crossed the finish line in fifth place, in one of her best races to date pace-wise, which meant another rookie class victory and her personal best overall finish.
Having qualified fifth after a stellar job on Saturday morning, Noda started from second place in Race 2, in her first time from the front row.
From pole position, Bryce Aron had a great start and pulled away, while Noda had way too much wheelspin and fell behind Josh Mason. She could still defend from Noel Leon - who had demoted Simonazzi to fifth - on the opening lap, as the Motopark drivers were aiming to clear the competition and battle for the podium.
Noda, though, showed some proper speed and was never under threat from championship leader Leon; she rather kept chipping away and closed in on Mason.
The Japanese driver spent the rest of the race glued to the rear wing of the Briton, trying to force him into a mistake.
Leon was following not far behind, but Mason and Noda were quicker; Juju attempted a pass on a couple of occasions, but she couldn't find a clear gap and had to back off.
Ahead, Aron had opened an over 8 second gap which allowed him to cruise to victory at the end of the 17 lap race; Josh Mason had his mirrors full of Noda throughout the race but defended well and took second, while Noda - in one of the strongest performances of her career to date - was third across the finish line.
The 17-year-old racer bagged her first overall podium in Euroformula, showing great pace - and would have another chance in race 3 later in the day, with another start from the first row.
Lining up alongside rookie class rival Jakob Bergmeister, Noda was eyeing her first overall victory in race 3. Unfortunately, another rough start meant that she was again down to third place as the lights went out, with Josh Mason moving from third to first into turn 1.
Noda had to defend from Shields and Simonazzi as well, with the former eventually getting past. Juju, though, fought back immediately after and by turn 2, the Japanese was on a mission.
Noda quickly caught Bergmeister but the nature of the Hungaroring circuit made for a difficult move. Clearly the faster driver, Juju remained in the slipstream of the Motorpark driver for most of the race - in what looked like a replay from race 2.
This time, though, Noda eventually found a gap and overtook Bergmeister under braking at turn 1 on lap 12 - soon pulling away in the attempt to catch back race leader Josh Mason.
It only took one lap for Noda, who was all over the back of the British racer for the remainder of the race.
On the final lap, Juju tried to take advantage of a mistake at turn 1 for her rival, who went slightly wide; in a last second attack, Juju went for the inside at turn 2 but the two made contact - ending with the #10 Noda Racing machine taking off and damaging the front wing and front suspension.
Mason managed to continue and won despite late pressure from Bergmeister - who secured his first podium in Euroformula - and Leon. Noda completed the race on three wheels, in a Villeneuve-esque finish in ninth place.
With two more rookie wins, though, Juju extended her lead in the class standings, now 14 points clear of Jakob Bergmeister. Two top-five and a podium also mean that Juju sits sixth in the drivers' championship standings, with 67 points after 9 rounds.
Euroformula Open will head to Circuit Paul Ricard next - another track that Noda previously visited with W Series - for the fourth round of the season on 22-23 July.