Miki Koyama claims first single seater wins, takes championship lead in FR Japan
With a double victory at Okayama, Toyota Junior and former W Series driver Miki Koyama claimed the first win of her career in single seaters and took the lead in the Formula Regional Japanese Championship.
Former W Series racer Miki Koyama, 24, became the first ever female driver to join the Toyota Gazoo young driver programme earlier this year and was signed to Team Super License to contest the full Formula Regional Japan season. At the first race meeting of the year, Koyama scored three podiums: two second places and a third place to kick off her season at Fuji Speedway, in a mixed weather weekend. Almost three months later, the series returned to the track for its second round at Okayama International Circuit - a track that hosted two F1 GPs between 1994 and 1995. Koyama was second in all practice sessions leading to the races, a few hundredth of a second adrift early pace setter Yoshiaki Katayama (Team LeMans). Katayama scored pole position for all the three races of the weekend, sharing the front row with Miki Koyama. At the start of race 1, all the cars got away well and Katayama opened a 2 second gap after the first lap; he led Koyama and Hirobon, while Sota Ogawa (Bionick Jack Racing) was forced to start from the back of the pack after an issue in qualifying. While Ogawa made up positions, Master class racers Hirobon and Takashi Hata battled for third overall throughout the early stages - until Hata made a mistake on lap 5 and spun, dropping to the tail end of the field. Ogawa was able to navigate through the pack and, on lap 8, he would overtake Hirobon for third. Miki Koyama had a solid race in second place, keeping a 5-second gap to the race leader and, at the same time, opening a safe margin of almost 20 seconds to third-placed Ogawa. Katayama took his first win of the season - having finished third in race 1 and 2 at Fuji - and preceded Miki Koyama and Sota Ogawa. Hirobon crossed the line in fourth place and scored a victory in the Master category, ahead of Masaru Miura and Takashi Hata.
But it would be on Sunday that the championship took a historic turn for Miki Koyama, as the young lady claimed her first ever win in single seaters in race 2. From second on the grid, Koyama took the lead into Turn 1 after a slow getaway from Katayama; the latter tried to fight back, but then had to defend from Ogawa, who moved into second place at the hairpin on the first lap. Ogawa initially reduced the gap to Koyama, but then the young lady set the fastest lap and started to pull away. Her margin was then neutralized on lap 6, when the Safety Car was deployed for the spin of Yorikatsu Tsujiko that bunched up the field once again. At the green flag on lap 10, Koyama perfectly managed the restart, while Ogawa had to watch his mirrors from polesitter Katayama; Ogawa held on, but lost touch to Koyama as she checked out once again. Miki was quickly back into her rhythm and was not to be caught again, taking her first win in single seaters in her career. A few hours later, she would repeat the remarkable result with yet another victory - again thanks to a brilliant start off the line. A slower reaction meant that Yoshiaki Katayama also lost second to Sota Ogawa - with the battle for the podium allowing Miki Koyama to pull away in the race lead. The former W Series racer was approximately one second per lap faster than her pursuers and, when Katayama was finally able to get back ahead of Ogawa after a race-long duel, she had already built a 12-second advantage. Koyama continued to set fastest laps and, after 18 laps, she crossed the finish line 13 seconds ahead of Yoshiaki Katayama. Sota Ogawa followed in third, having held off the late charge by Takashi Hata; the driver of the #7 Super License car was fourth, only 0.3 seconds away from a podium finish and took the Master category win preceding Yuki Tanaka and Hirobon. With a dominant race 3, Miki Koyama scored a double victory at Okayama and gained the top of the drivers' standings: she now leads with 119 points, 9 points ahead of Yoshiaki Katayama. In doing so, she became the first woman to lead a FIA-sanctioned single-seater series. Formula Regional Japan will return to the track in a week's time, with the third round of the 2022 season scheduled for 1-3 July at Motegi.