Fenestraz finished second on the Kyushu track, taking advantage of a cross-country strategy that left him with only the winner of the Rio Hirakov race with a checkered flag.
However, there could have been a different story if the Franco-Argentine driver had listened to his Kondo crew’s request that he perform in the pit at the beginning of the window on the 10th of the 42nd lap.
Instead, Fenestraz decided to stay until the 28th lap, enjoying the spells in the race leaders, and when he returned to the track, he was ahead of several cars he was behind in the early stages, including Pole Tomoki Nodira.
On the contrary, Kondo’s teammate Kent Yamashita finished 11th and did not get points, stopping on the 11th lap, despite qualifying for one place behind Fenestraz in seventh place.
“I didn’t follow what the team said, so they weren’t too happy, but in the end it paid off,” Fenestraz told Motorsport.com. “That is why I am happy with this decision.
“I saw two cars ahead [Tadasuke Makino and Ukyo Sasahara] pit in and then I said screw it in, I don’t pit! I had a clean track and I felt like before the stops I was faster than them. Behind the safety car, I told the team, “Guys, I think we can go some more.”
“When the guys came ahead, I was able to take advantage [of the clean air] and increase the pace. It was my last minute decision not to come in and it was the right call. ”
Fenestraz (left) congratulates race winner and Toyota mate Hirakov
When Hirakawa stopped at lap 20, beating Nodira in the title race, Fenestraz had an advantage in fresher tires for the final part of the race and initially narrowed the gap with his stablemate Toyota.
However, after a few laps, the driver Konda had to pay attention to the protection of the second from the sensation of newcomer Atsusha Miyake, who stopped even later on the 32nd lap on the way to third.
“I knew that the first three or four laps on these tires were good, and you should try to make a difference on these first wheels, but there are still a lot of laps left, so I didn’t want to kill the tires,” Fenestraz explained.
“Miyake has been walking like crazy on the last five wheels … I asked on the radio, ‘Who is this guy, is he on the wheel below or what?’
“Unfortunately, we lost about two to three seconds on the pit stop, so at a normal pit stop, maybe we could fight Rio. But of course I’m happy with the second one.
“The team fought like crazy last year, so after what happened last year, [team owner Masahiko] Konda-san said, “It’s like a victory for me,” so the boss is happy! “
Contrasting destinies for beginners Goh
Meanwhile, Miyake was delighted to score his first podium in the Super Formula in just the fourth start in the category, being an unexpected pick for second place in the Go team alongside Red Bull junior Ren Sato.
The Super Formula Lights graduate, who now ranks seventh in the standings, has acknowledged his team, including adviser Goh Taku Izawa, for helping him drive tires on 32 wheels.
“We originally planned to change the tires early, but we were able to take better care of the tires than the cars around me, and the long-term pace was good, so we switched to a strategy to extend the first term,” said Miyake, who was the last driver in the pit.
“Towards the end [of the stint] it was hard with the tires but with the advice I got from the engineers and [team advisor Takuya] Izawa, I kept calm and managed things well. “
Sato finished a minor 18th after a belated gear problem, though he ran out of points after his pit stop on lap 31 – a legacy of a bad start and exit from lap 1.