Super Formula Lights SUGO (Rounds 4-6): Igor Omura Fraga Claims First Series Win and Moves Up to 4th
Igor Fraga is the inaugural Gran Turismo World Series champion and a driver who continues to compete in real motorsport competitions around the world, including the F3. This season he has moved his focus to Japan to the Super GT300 class and Super Formula Lights series. This is a report of Fraga’s amazing first Super Formula Lights series victory at SUGO.
On 17-18 June, Igor Omura Fraga competed in Rounds 4, 5, and 6 of the Super Formula Lights (SFL) at Sportsland SUGO in the Miyagi prefecture with 'FANATEC-GRAN TURISMO with B-MAX.'
While experienced with tracks in the USA, New Zealand, and Europe where FIA F3 Championship races are typically hosted, it was Fraga’s first time to race at SUGO, the stage for this round of SFL races.
Initial testing at Sportsland SUGO
The team conducted a private test at Sportsland SUGO at the end of May to prepare the car and provide an opportunity for the drivers to practice. Fraga, commenting on his very first time on the track said, "I wasn’t able to get a proper run during the test in dry conditions as we were a little unlucky with the weather. However, it’s a really fun track with a lot of rhythm in the corners and ups and downs.”
Once race week got underway, there were a small number of opportunities for practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, but the weather began to deteriorate on Thursday. Some drivers decided to practice in the wet regardless, but Fraga made the decision not to test the car in such bad weather.
"With the bad weather conditions there was some risks and I didn’t want to get into any bad habits, so I decided not to take the car out. On Thursday, I managed to get a few laps in on the dry track before it started to rain. I was also able to set some top-class times in the test run, so I wanted to maintain that feeling."
On Saturday, 17 June the weather was much improved and the track was dry. Fraga set a respectable qualifying time in the morning and was second fastest overall in the Round 4 qualifying session. He followed this up by taking fourth in Round 5 qualifying, securing him a top spot on the starting grid.
Fraga had the following to say on qualifying: “While I wasn’t able to get in as much practice as I would have liked beforehand, I felt Round 4 qualifying went well overall. I was tending to oversteer a bit in the first half of the track and understeer in the middle, so I changed my settings between the qualifying sessions. However, these changes backfired slightly as the car then understeered in Round 5 qualifying. I pushed to improve my time but went off the track slightly and dirtied my tyres, so I ended up fourth.”
Round 4 Race: Maintain the starting place to secure second and a podium finish
The race for Round 4 got underway on Saturday afternoon. This race was the longest of the three rounds of races at SUGO and was contested over 26 laps.
Fraga carefully let off the clutch for a good start and maintained his second-place position. However, during the opening lap, a collision occurred involving some cars behind him which resulted in the safety car being called onto the track and a prolonged safety car period.
The race resumed on lap 9. After the restart, second place Fraga fought off a stern challenge from Iori Kimura, who was hot on his heels in third.
On lap 10, Fraga almost ran off the track at Rainbow Corner but was just about able to cover Kimura and defend his second place. He held on to his position for the remaining laps and took the chequered flag in second, his first podium finish in the SFL series.
After starting Round 4 in second, Fraga coolly staves off an attack from third place Iori Kimura
Fraga finishes a brilliant Round 4 in second and records his first podium finish in the Super Formula Lights series. Also pictured, Round 4 winner Hibiki Taira and third place Iori Kimura
The result from the race in Round 4 determined the starting grid for Round 6, meaning that Fraga would start in second for Sunday’s race. The team, therefore, decided to save one of the two sets of tyres permitted during the race week for Round 6 on Sunday and begin Round 5 with tyres used in Round 4.
Fraga gave his thoughts going into Round 5: “In Round 4, the car felt a bit peaky and it was oversteering a little. With that, I almost went off the track, but I just about managed to stay on and keep going. I'll speak with the engineers and see what can be done for Round 5."
Round 5: Race
Round 5 took place the following day on Sunday. Having selected his worn tyres, Fraga was prepared for a tough 19 laps.
Starting in fourth he got off to a bad start and dropped back to sixth after allowing the trailing cars to pass him at a hairpin corner, “I was practising my clutch release before the start and because of that the clutch got hot and I couldn’t accelerate properly.” Combined with the worn tyres, it would be a hard race for Fraga, but he was able to maintain his position from that point on to finish in sixth and pick up a vital series point.
Round 6 Race: Fraga scores his first SFL win
Next up was Round 6, which took place on Sunday afternoon. Fraga started second on the grid, reflecting the results of the Round 4 race. The team fitted the new tyres that had been saved for this 19-lap race.
Straight from the opening signal, Fraga accelerated well and closed in on the leader, Hibiki Taira, but was unable to overtake him. The gap to the leader gradually widened as the race approached the halfway point, but Fraga was able to hold off the rest of the field and maintain second. As the race moved into the latter stages Fraga, aware of the distance between himself and the leader, attempted to go for the fastest lap, as the fastest lap recorded in the race earns one series point.
Fraga continued his attack to improve his lap time, and with two laps remaining, Taria at the head of the field suffered issues with his car and slowed down, allowing Fraga to sweep past him and take the lead. From there, he held on for the remaining two laps to score his first win in the SFL.
Fraga climbs to fourth in the series standings
Following his victory in Round 6, Fraga gained 10 series points. Combined with his seven points from Round 4 and one point from Round 5, this takes his series points total to 21 and moves him up to fourth place in the overall standings.
Fraga comments on his first win
“I'm really happy with the result, it means a lot to me. However, I was only able to take first place due to the driver at the top suffering mechanical issues, so in terms of the way I feel, I’d say I’m about 98% happy. The remaining 2% is because I discovered there are still areas I’m still lacking in so I am not 100% satisfied, and this race showed me what I need to work on next. I was also aiming for the fastest lap, but my tyres wore out halfway through the race and so I didn’t get that, which was disappointing. Next time, I want to win simply by speed."
Round 6 Winner Igor Fraga (middle), second place Enzo Trulli (left), third place Syun Koide (Right)
Fraga and his rivals celebrate on the podium with champagne
The next round of races will be at Suzuka on 1 and 2 July
Next up, Fraga will head to the Suzuka Circuit in the Mie prefecture for the next round of the Super Formula Lights series (Rounds 7, 8, and 9), on 1-2 July.