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Juju Noda takes maiden victory, two podiums in Euroformula Open

Japanese sensation Juju Noda took a historic first victory in Euroformula Open - then adding a podium finish, three rookie wins and a fastest lap to her memorable weekend at Le Castellet.

Photo by: Fotospeedy / Euroformula Open

17-year old Japanese racing driver Juju Noda made history by winning her first race in Euroformula Open, one of Europe's regional Formula 3 competitions. As a rookie in the championship, Noda has progressed through the first half of the season with impressive pace, first standing on the top step of the rookie class podium - once at Portimao and twice at Spa - before enjoying a breakthrough weekend at Hungaroring last month, where the teenager claimed her first overall podium finish and just missed out on her first win following a last lap contact in Race 3. At Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of France, Juju Noda made a further step forward and battled all weekend for the top positions and eventually finishing twice on the podium and securing a historic and inspiring first victory. Her weekend at the French venue started with very positive Friday practice sessions, where Noda was second fastest in both occasions - proving that the small Noda Racing team had speed to challenge the other established teams of the championship. Very close times defined the qualifying session, with the top three separated by less than two tenths. Championship leader Noel Leon scored pole position, ahead of BVM Racing's Francesco Simonazzi. Juju Noda was fifth fastest - but with encouraging pace to make up for it in the races.

Race 1

From the third grid slot, Bryce Aron stalled just ahead of Noda, with the Japanese driver luckily able to avoid the stationary car. Simonazzi, meanwhile, had taken the lead from Leon at turn one, with Ryabov not close enough to join the battle for the lead. Cian Shields fought back on the second lap and snatched fourth from Noda, as she also had to defend from rookie standings' rival Jakob Bergmeister. On the third lap, Simonazzi and Leon came together at turn 3 and were out of the race; Shields, who had just found a way past Ryabov for third, also dropped down and Juju Noda found herself in the lead as the safety car was deployed. Noda managed the pace at the restart, with the Motopark drivers battling for the podium positions; Bergmeister took over second from Shields and Ryabov, as Noda tried to pull away. Bergmeister, though, kept the pressure on and closed in on Noda; the driver of the #10 Noda Racing Dallara though wasn't fazed and kept chipping away, setting the fastest lap on lap 11 that extended her gap to Jakob Bergmeister to over one second. Juju started the final lap with a 1.6 second advantage and, having left the three Motopark drivers in her mirrors, she took a spectacular and historic victory - the first ever for a female driver in the history of a championship that has seen several talented women moving up the ranks. Family-run team Noda Racing kept behind the Motopark outfit thanks to Juju's flawless run, which comes after her breakthrough weekend at Hungaroring last time out. At Paul Ricard, Noda did not crack under pressure, perfectly managed her race and pulled away in the final laps: once ahead, the Japanese sensation couldn't be challenged and claimed the historic result, as well as her first fastest lap.

Photo by: Fotospeedy / Euroformula Open
Race 2

In the reverse grid race on Sunday morning, Noda would have to recover from sixth on the grid after winning race 1, lining up alongside fellow rookie driver Jakob Bergmeister. At his first race in the series, Attila Penzes (Crypto Tower Racing) bagged sixth on Saturday and therefore would start from pole position, sharing the front row with teammate Vladislav Ryabov. Penzes struggled to get off the line, with also Noel Leon having a slow launch; Juju Noda had the best start and was soon up to third in a matter of seconds. The Saturday's race winner slotted behind Aron - who managed to take the lead at turn 1 - and Ryabov. Noda was soon under pressure from Leon, who attempted a pass at Signes - but thanks to a decisive move around the outside of the fastest corner of the track, she held on. Noda continued her strong but clean defense in the following laps, as Leon then lost out to Francesco Simonazzi. A six-car battle offered some of the most spectacular racing action of the season so far: Simonazzi eventually found a way past Noda, who temporarily dropped to sixth; Bergmeister and Shields also traded positions, in a superb and clean display of racecraft from all drivers. The fight for second continued with constant position changes until lap 6, when positions slightly settled with Shields ahead of Leon, Simonazzi, Bergmeister, Noda and Ryabov - who had gone off onto a kerb but rejoined. This incredible action, though, had allowed Bryce Aron to extend his lead to over 12 seconds and the American was unchallenged through the rest of the contest. Things heated up again once the tyre wear became a factor in the latter stages of the race: Juju Noda had managed well her tyres and when her rivals started to struggle for grip, the Japanese driver was again on a charge and passed Noel Leon at Le Beausset - then attacked and overtook Jakob Bergmeister with three laps to go into the Mistral chicane, in a move that also gained her the rookie lead. Bryce Aron took a comfortable win in race 2 and was joined on the podium by Cian Shields and Francesco Simonazzi. Fourth after another extremely solid race was Juju Noda, on top of the rookie class podium and yet again with a strong haul of points.

Photo by: Fotospeedy / Euroformula Open
Race 3

Noda took the start of race three on the front row, alongside pole-sitter Cian Shields and ahead of Vladislav Ryabov and Bryce Aron. Juju had another stellar start but couldn't clear Shields at turn 1, then came under pressure from Simonazzi - who had gained two places at the start. Simonazzi ended up losing third to Noel Leon, who then passed Noda on lap 3. Simonazzi wasn't quite fast enough to make a move on Noda, who eventually pulled away, leaving Simonazzi and Aron battling for fourth. The Japanese was lapping on par with the leading duo and closed in on Leon. Once in the one second margin, though, Noda couldn't get close enough to attempt a pass and slightly fell behind. Similarly, Leon attempted a recovery on Shields, but the Mexican couldn't challenge his Motopark teammate. Shields took his second victory of the season, while Noel Leon extended his championship advantage with second in race 3. Juju Noda added one more podium to her resumé - her third of the season - and yet another rookie class victory - the third consecutive one and the eighth this year. Noda's historic weekend at Paul Ricard cemented her fifth place in the championship standings, having scored 118 points as Euroformula Open reached the midway point of the 2023 campaign. After the summer break, the series will resume its season at Red Bull Ring on 9-10 September, before rounds at Monza, Mugello and Barcelona.

Photo by: Fotospeedy / Euroformula Open



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