Juju Noda secures podiums in BOSS GP debut
"It was fun to drive and I enjoyed driving this car, which is much faster than the F3" – After a demo run in Brno, Juju Noda made her racing debut at the wheel of the Formula Renault 3.5 – the most powerful machine she had ever driven to date - securing two podium finishes at Monza in the BOSS GP championship.
Japanese up-and-coming racing star Juju Noda made headlines at the end of July, when she took her breakthrough victory in Euroformula Open at Circuit Paul Ricard, in a remarkable weekend that saw the 17 year old driver beating the Motopark squad in her small family operation.
Noda Racing then announced the withdrawal from the championship at the following race meeting at Red Bull Ring, as Euroformula announced a change in the regulation that would require Noda's car to carry ballast: a previous rule in fact allowed a different minimum weight for female drivers.
As Hideki Noda – Juju's father and Team Principal of Noda Racing – confirmed Racers at Monza, the rule change in itself wasn't the issue for the small Japanese operation, but rather the timing – barely a handful of days before the race event. This meant that Noda Racing would be forced to run a significantly different car setup to comply with the new regulation, without time to test.
Alongside the rule change, Noda was allegedly asked to halt her combined programs in the Zinox F2000 Trophy – which she currently leads - and the Drexler Formula Cup – where she has collected six race wins to date. These circumstances persuaded Noda Racing to not go ahead in Euroformula Open, where Juju still sits fifth in the drivers' standings with three podiums to her name.
While at Brno for the latest round of the Drexler Cup, though, an opportunity emerged which would represent an exciting development for her season: Juju was offered the chance to drive a Formula Renault 3.5 car for the first time. The car was featured in the highly competitive World Series by Renault championship from 2012 until the dismissal of the series in 2017: alongside GP2 (then renamed FIA Formula 2), it represented the highest step of single seater racing before Formula 1 in the European ladder.
For this reason, WSR's champions – which include drivers such as Robert Kubica, Giedo van der Garde, Robert Wickens, Robin Frijns, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Oliver Rowland - all graduated to the echelons of the sport, whether in F1, Indycar or sportscar racing.
The car Formula Renault 3.5 features the Dallara T12 chassis, powered by a 3.4 V8 engine which produces 530 hp. This is by far the most powerful car that young Juju Noda got to experience, having previously driven both the Dallara 320 F3 car as well as Tatuus T318 machine.
From the demo run at Brno, Noda was presented with another opportunity – making her racing debut in the Formula Renault 3.5 car, as part of the BOSS GP event at Monza: yet another exciting step for the Japanese sensation, who would continue to collect experience in powerful machinery.
The BOSS GP championship stands for Big Open Single Seaters and features a wide variety of spectacular cars: from Formula 1 cars from 1996 onwards, GP2, Indycars, World Series cars, AutoGP, Superleague as well as F3000 machines – divided in four classes. Noda entered the largest Formula class, which included her sole World Series car as well as eight Dallara GP2s. More WSR cars were entered in the Open category, which has no displacement limit for the engines.
Racing for Austrian team HS Engineering, Juju Noda had the opportunity to share the garage with former Formula 1 driver Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian contested three partial campaigns in F1 from 2003 to 2005, scoring points in four different occasions and with two seventh place finishes at Monza under his belt. His experience revealed to be a great asset for Noda, who tried to learn as much as possible from her teammate: "It was very nice to meet Antonio, I was learning a lot from him", Juju told us.
Drivers were met with difficult conditions on Friday, as the rain disrupted the practice sessions: Noda, who was effectively trying to familiarize herself with the car, posted a 1:58.777 as a best lap, slotting in third place among the Formula entries. Her progression, though, continued in qualifying: on a dry session on Saturday morning, the Japanese driver was fifth fastest in class, as her 1:38.564 was barely 1.8 seconds adrift the Dallara GP2 of Marco Ghiotto.
In the first race of the weekend, Juju Noda survived a hectic race interrupted by two safety cars, consistently moving up the field: from eighth overall, she gained one position at the start, then overtook the #66 Dallara GT2 at the restart on lap 4 and proceeded to make up places until second in class and third overall. On the final restart, she fought with the GP2 cars of Ghiotto and Colombo, eventually finishing second in class by 1.1 seconds, having battled elbows out with faster cars on a track where straight-line speed is crucial.
Stepping on the famous Monza podium, Noda showed she had quickly adapted to the powerful machinery and wasn't at all intimidated by the challenge.
"On Saturday the conditions were not great, but I did my best and my team was very happy with the result" – Noda commented, having made no mistakes in challenging conditions.
Juju's potential was further highlighted by race 2, where she showcased again great speed and fighting spirit in a cleaner race that didn't record DNFs among her class: from eighth overall, she passed Fiedler and Malavasi's GP2 cars on lap 5 to gain third in class – and she would continue to keep behind the fast opponents with better racecraft even after a late safety car period that saw a last lap restart.
With two podiums at debut, Noda rounded out an exciting weekend in Monza at the wheel of a car that could turn out to be very formative in her career development.
"It was fun to drive and I enjoyed driving this car, which is much faster than the F3", Juju told us after the races. "It's a very good experience for me, and it was important to have the support of HS Engineering - that was an amazing weekend."
"The biggest difference between the Formula Renault 3.5 and the cars I had driven before of course is the horsepower, which is very different", she explained. "It has a lot of downforce, as well as carbon brakes. It was my first time using carbon brakes and I really enjoyed it and I think I got used to this car pretty well."
"Monza is also a very tricky circuit: at the beginning of this weekend the weather was very tricky, so it was a tough one but I think I did my best. I'm very happy about the podiums – it was quite unexpected!"
While her future plans remain to be confirmed, Juju clearly enjoyed the opportunity and will be looking forward to building on this experience in the future.
"We haven't decided yet if I'll have more outings with this car, but if I'll have the chance, of course I'll want to do more", she concluded.