Miki Koyama wins 6th Formula Regional Japan race, extends championship lead
Miki Koyama wins again and, with two second places and a victory at Sugo, further extends her championship lead in Formula Regional Japan.
Just two weeks after the remarkable race meeting of Motegi – where former W Series racer and current Toyota GR junior driver Miki Koyama had an utterly dominant weekend with three pole positions and three race victories – Formula Regional Japanese Championship returned to the track at Sportsland Sugo, a 3.704 km motorsport facility in Murata.
Coming off a 5-race win streak, Koyama targeted more strong results to further extend her lead in the championship, after her impressive first half of the season.
At Sugo, drivers went out on track in rainy conditions on Friday for the practice sessions, while Saturday conditions had improved and all the races were contested on a dry track.
Sota Ogawa – Koyama's closest rival in the points' standings – claimed pole position for the first race of the weekend, preceding Koyama, Kazumi Oki and Yuki Tanaka.
A slow start by Koyama, though, resulted in Oki moving into second place; the young lady tried to fight back and remained close to Oki, while race leader Ogawa opened a small gap.
Overall, the races provided some of the best racing in the series so far, with battles in the midfield and for positions just outside the podium; Hirobon and Katayama enjoyed a race-long fight for position, but the leader of the Master category was able to hold off the pressure.
On lap 6, though, Kazuki Oki was handed a drive through penalty and, once served, he dropped to eighth – leaving Miki Koyama in second and Hirobon in third.
With a series of fastest laps, Koyama caught up with the race leader, gaining over two seconds – but it was ultimately not enough to get the pass done and keep the winning streak alive. Sota Ogawa took victory, but Koyama's second place still gained her great points for the championship.
With a great drive, Hirobon took class victory in the Master entries and held off Katayama to score an overall podium.
Kazuki Oki sealed pole position in Q2 and thus lined up alongside Miki Koyama for Race 2 on Sunday morning. It was a good start by the Toyota junior driver this time – but an even better one for Oki, who retained first place at Turn 1 and preceded Koyama and Ogawa. Behind them, a great battle for fourth saw Katayama ultimately getting the position after Tanaka went deep at the first corner on the second lap.
The midfield saw plenty of action, as Hata, Tanaka and Hirobon all followed each other closely for most of the race.
Katayama would eventually join the front runners trio; Ogawa was also on the move and attacked Koyama for several laps before he found a way past on lap 12, moving into second place. The fastest driver on track at that point, Ogawa hunted down Oki and the two battled out for the lead on lap 17: a lengthy side-by-side battle ended with contact and Ogawa had to park his car with damage on the following lap.
Koyama caught up with Oki in the final stages, but she crossed the finish line in second place – with the top three separated by one second to each other and over 20 seconds ahead of fourth placed Hata, also winner of the Master category.
With the second-best lap from Q1, Miki Koyama gained pole position for the third and final race of the weekend at Sugo, ahead of Oki and Ogawa.
When the lights went out, Koyama, Ogawa and Oki arrived at the first corner three-wide, but the 24 year-old lady managed to hold on to first place and completed the first lap leading Ogawa – who had a great launch from third – and Oki.
There were again some really exciting battles in the midfield, including a scrap between Hirobon and Tanaka that ended with the latter facing the wrong way at Turn 1 but able to rejoin. Hata made a good pass for fourth but then spun and dropped back, leaving Oki, Hirobon and Katayama in the mix. It would be the latter to eventually climb to fourth, with two good moves mid-way through the race.
Meanwhile, Koyama and Ogawa checked out from the rest of the pack and opened a 10 second gap to third-placed Riki Okusa – at his first weekend in the series.
Koyama had a controlled drive in the lead and claimed a lights-to-flag victory ahead of her main title rival Sota Ogawa, sealing her sixth win of the season.
With two second places and a victory at Sportsland Sugo, Miki Koyama further extended her lead in the Formula Regional Japanese championship, now enjoying a 73 point advantage with two triple-headers to go.
The series will return after the summer break, as drivers get ready for round 5 – the second at Fuji Speedway, where the championship started in early April. Miki Koyama has so far secured 6 race wins, 5 second places and a third place finish – in a 12-race uninterrupted podium streak.