Super Typhoon Lan is projected to be the largest typhoon to ever make landfall in Japan on Sunday, intensifying to Category 5 status – the highest classification for such a phenomena – with winds topping out over 150 miles per hour and the likelihood of severe flash flooding and mudslides in the affected areas.
With this potentially lethal storm bearing down on the mainland of the country, Japan Race Promotion (JRP), the promoters of the Japanese Super Formula Championship, came to the decision to cancel the two races of the JAF Grand Prix Suzuka, shortly after the conclusion of qualifying on Saturday.
Hiroaki Ishiura has won his second Super Formula Drivers’ Championship in three seasons, and P.MU/Cerumo-INGING have won their third consecutive Teams’ Championship.
Andre Lotterer (Vantelin Team TOM’s) captured his 12th career pole position in an abbreviated qualifying session run under monsoon conditions, which would have given him pole position for Race 1 on Sunday morning.
Qualifying sessions 2 and 3 were cancelled, so the grid for the second race would be set by the second-fastest lap times in Q1. Rookie Jann Mardenborough (Itochu Enex Team IMPUL) took the initiative and captured his first career Super Formula pole position.
The rains were only expected to get worse on Sunday, as Typhoon Lan is set to make landfall.
And so, with no possibility of making up the races later in the year due to logistical concerns, and out of respect and consideration to the team personnel, spectators, and everyone at the circuit and their families, the JRP came to the difficult decision to cancel both races, and declaring the championship standings final as of the end of qualifying.
This meant that Hiroaki Ishiura won his second championship by just a half-point over Pierre Gasly (Red Bull Team Mugen), who finished as the highest-ranked rookie in the championship – but was denied a chance to join Ralf Schumacher (1996) as the only rookie champions in series history. Gasly, who was just promoted to full-time Formula 1 status with Scuderia Toro Rosso, deferred the chance to race in the United States Grand Prix this weekend to compete in this weekend’s event.
For Ishiura, age 36, he becomes the oldest champion in series history since Toshio Suzuki (1995), and joins an exclusive list of multi-time champions in series history: Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Satoru Nakajima, Satoshi Motoyama, Noritake Takahara, Tsugio Matsuda, and Kazuki Nakajima have also won multiple drivers’ titles.
Felix Rosenqvist (Sunoco Team LeMans) finished third in the final standings, ahead of Yuhi Sekiguchi (Itochu Enex Team Impul) in fourth, Kazuki Nakajima (Vantelin Team TOM’s) in fifth, his teammate Lotterer in sixth, then Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) and Yuji Kunimoto (P.MU/Cerumo-INGING) in eighth.
P.MU/Cerumo-INGING won the Teams’ Championship by four points over Team Mugen, their third straight championship under the leadership of team principal Yuji Tachikawa.
Tickets for the JAF Grand Prix Suzuka may be exchanged for free tickets to next year’s Suzuka 2 & 4 Race, including the opening round of the 2018 Super Formula Championship, or one of three other events – information is available at the Suzuka Circuit website.
No driver wants a championship to be decided in such a manner – after all, racers are highly-competitive individuals, wired differently than the average human being. In fact, many current and former drivers have already spoken out about the cancellation of the JAF GP.
However, in light of the circumstances that led to the JRP cancelling the event, in light of a hat trick of devastating storms that lashed the United States and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico this summer, and with weighing the safety and well-being of everyone in attendance, it was the correct decision to make.
It is our sincerest hope that everyone in the path of Typhoon Lan can find their way to safety, and that in six months’ time, Super Formula can pick up right where they left off, with some of the best open-wheel racing on the planet today.