Gran Turismo World Series champion Igor Fraga has enjoyed his best weekend yet in the Super Formula Lights series, taking three successive second-place finishes in the round at Okayama.
A recent run of issues had seen Fraga slipping to fifth in the overall points standings, with only one top-six finish in the six races at Suzuka and Fuji. However his early pace at Okayama was encouraging, topping the standings in the third free practice session — with what would prove to be the weekend’s fastest lap.
Qualifying for the first race of the weekend, Round 13, saw the Brazilian driver line up on the front row alongside Syun Koide. The positions would be reversed for Round 14 as Fraga claimed his first pole position of the season by less than two-hundredths of a second.
Koide made the better start for the first race, streaking clear as Fraga had to fend off Seita Nonaka to keep his position into the obviously named First Corner.
From there though both Koide and Fraga pulled inexorably clear of the chasing pack. As the only race of the weekend not impacted by a safety car period, pure pace showed with Koide winning by just over five seconds from Fraga — who was himself more than nine seconds clear of Nonaka.
Notably the championship top two had a poor race, with Iori Kimura ending the race three laps down following a retirement and leader Hibiki Taira rescuing two points after starting last.
Koide’s excellent form continued as he got a better start to jump Fraga and take the lead right from the flag. Unlike the first race though, there was a safety car almost immediately following Enzo Trulli’s crash at the Attwood turn four while battling with David Vidales.
That meant another chance for Fraga to retake his position from the restart, but Koide controlled the pace well in allowing the safety car to get almost two corners ahead before putting the hammer down at Redman.
As the race wore on, Fraga found himself increasingly under thread from Kimura behind but was able to hold firm until the final lap. That saw Kimura suddenly slow exiting Piper, and only just cross the line ahead of Taira after losing close to eight seconds in the final three turns.
That could have left Fraga vulnerable from behind, but Vidales and Nonaka were too busy fighting among themselves for third. Koide then was free to build an enormous lead, while the pack behind him began to spread out.
Late on though, and again off-screen, Nonaka dropped the car exiting Revolver, bringing out another safety car as the marshals recovered the stricken vehicle. Koide’s nine-second advantage over Fraga evaporated on the spot but with the SC only coming back in on the final lap it meant no further changes in position.
With 22 points over the weekend it’s Fraga’s best single points haul yet and moves him back up to fourth ahead of the final round at Mobility Resort Motegi in November. There’s not enough races left for him to be in contention for the title, and the top three are far enough ahead to be just about out of reach too, but it’s been a step in the right direction.
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