Ukyo Sasahara has offered his version of the huge Turn 1 crash in Saturday’s Suzuka Super Formula race, saying the reality on the race track was “completely different” to that suggested by the TV pictures.
Mugen driver Sasahara was running in fourth and coming under pressure from a chasing pack of cars, including Sho Tsuboi, Kamui Kobayashi and Ryo Hirakawa when the 28-lap race resumed on lap 23 after the second of three safety car periods.
After getting a poor exit out of the final chicane at the end of that lap, Sasahara found himself with both Tsuboi and Kobayashi on the left and Hirakawa on his right approaching Turn 1.
Sasahara then moved slightly to his left, making contact with the Cerumo machine of Tsuboi and losing control, in the process collecting pre-race points leader Hirakawa.
But, giving his version of the events that preceded the crash, Sasahara said he was merely moving over to avoid contact with Hirakawa as the latter moved across the track.
“The TV pictures show everyone completely four-wide, but it actually wasn’t like that,” Sasahara told Motorsport.com. “Hirakawa was the furthest in front, then me, and Tsuboi and Kobayashi were side-by-side [behind].
“On my side, I was fighting with Tsuboi at the last chicane at the exit was really tricky, because I was on the inside. I was trying to defend from Tsuboi, and I could see he was there on the left, and then I saw Hirakawa coming really quick on the right-hand side.
“My right-front was just ahead of [Hirakawa’s] left-rear. But then he moved to the left side. You couldn’t really see it on the video, but actually Hirakawa is going left.
“I tried to avoid him so I went left, there is no other option. I checked to the left but I guess Tsuboi was in the blindspot, and I didn’t know that Kobayashi was on the far left. I couldn’t see anything on the left side. I tried to avoid Hirakawa’s move, and suddenly I touched Tsuboi.
“Seeing the video, maybe everybody wants to blame me, but I don’t think I had any choice to be honest. The reality was completely different.”
Sasahara was deemed at fault for the crash by stewards, picking up a 40-second time penalty (despite retiring from the race) as well as three points on his licence.
But Hirakawa said he didn’t want to blame anyone for what he described as a racing incident.
Ryo Hirakawa（ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL）
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
“I saw Sasahara had bad traction in the chicane so I saw three cars fighting in front of me,” Hirakawa told Motorsport.com. “I had a good run, plus OTS [Overtake System], I thought I was really lucky that I had a chance to pass three cars.
“Then I don’t know what happened. I thought I left a gap on the left side. I also thought I passed Sasahara completely. Then he touched my wheel and I got a puncture.
“It’s racing. I hope tomorrow I can be in front and do a normal job.”
Hirakawa’s qualifying ruined by ‘200 yen part’
For the second race in a row, Hirakawa was forced to make a recovery drive from the back of the grid, as his Impul machine developed a problem just before the start of Q1.
Hirakawa was confident he could have fought Naoki Yamamoto for pole without the issue.
“Something broke on the actuator for changing gear,” said the 26-year-old. “It’s just a 200 yen or 300 yen part [2-3 US dollars], so it sucks. They found out before qualifying as they tried to warm up the engine and they couldn’t fix it in time.
“I saw [Kazuki] Nakajima was three or four tenths behind Yamamoto. Obviously Honda was fast, but I think I could have fought with them.”
Yamamoto went on to win the race and now leads the championship on 55 points, four ahead of Hirakawa with Sunday’s Suzuka race and the Fuji season finale to go.
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