Nakajima Racing driver Oyu finished second at Sugo last month behind Nirei Fukuzumi, closing the gap to championship leader Tomoki Nojiri – who could only manage sixth – to 17 points.
This was after Oyu lost about 10 seconds on the pit road with a slow stop, without which he could have challenged Dandelion Racing’s first winner, Fukuzumi, to the win.
Hirakawa was unable to race at Sugo as he served his mandatory 14-day quarantine following his test drive from the Toyota FIA World Endurance Championship in Portimao earlier in the week.
The Impuls rider nevertheless watched the action closely, noting in particular Oyu’s speed from seventh place on the grid.
“It’s a bit lucky [that Nojiri only finished sixth], but Fukuzumi and Oyu were pretty quick and they’re now ahead of me in the championship, “Hirakawa told Motorsport.com.” It’s not just Nojiri now, I have three drivers to fight against.
âI was very impressed with Oyu’s performance, and I have to say I wasn’t watching Nojiri at all. Maybe Sugo isn’t the best track for him, but he still has points in his track. poached.”
Urged on to nominate his biggest rival for the three remaining races of the season, Hirakawa replied, âI think of Oyu. I think if he hadn’t had the slow pit stop at Sugo he could have won. .
“Sometimes his speed is unstoppable, so he can be a really strong opponent.”
Toshiki Oyu, TCS NAKAJIMA RACING
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Hirakawa will join the Super Formula peloton for the first of two races at Motegi, a track where he has had two wins in his last two visits, in hopes of making up some of the 30-point deficit he faces against Nojiri. .
The 27-year-old concedes that the warm conditions at the end of August tend to favor Toyota riders over their Honda rivals, but he is less certain of his prospects in the second Motegi race scheduled for October.
âIn Sugo, I expected Honda to be good as always, but I think Motegi and the warm conditions are better for Toyota,â said Hirakawa. âIf you look at the last few years, Toyota has dominated. Honda still has a chance but I think it won’t be like Fuji or Suzuka, or at least I hope!
âThe colder conditions are more suitable for Honda, and in Sugo, Honda is always fast. So I think in the first Motegi race I have better luck. [to win], but the second might be more difficult. “
For his part, Oyu said his racing pace at Sugo gave him confidence in his ability to fight for the top honors, as he passed Hirakawa teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi on the track to claim second place behind Fukuzumi. .
The runner-up in Super Formula is still chasing his first win of the season, after securing his first victory last year at Suzuka.
âMotegi is not a bad lead for us,â Oyu told reporters in Sugo. âLast year when it was hot Honda cars weren’t in such good shape, but as a team we don’t have a bad image.
âThe race is yet another matter, but now our sheer speed in qualifying is good. Now the team is working together to find the cause of our race pace issues, but this time it wasn’t so bad. If it had been the as always I’m sure Sekiguchi would have passed me [back again].
âThe fact that we managed to hang on is positive. On other tracks the story might change, at least in Sugo we did a good job, and I think that will lead to Motegi. So I’m relatively confident.”
Additional reporting by Kenichiro Ebii