Honda held a decisive advantage over Toyota in 2021, gaining six of seven possible race victories and the same number of pauls, and only Julian Alezzi’s victory in the shortened rain race Autopolis breaks the trend.
However, the 2022 season began with Toyota’s first victory in dry conditions since the end of the 2020 campaign, when Rio Hirakawa of Team Impul defeated reigning champion Tomoki Nodira and defeated Fuji Speedway.
Honda drivers have taken all three pole positions so far, but TOM’S driver Rhythm Miyato took second place at Fuji, and in the last race at Suzuka last month, Kondo Racing pair Kent Yamashita and Sasha Fenestraz finished second and third after the Nodira polemic.
Fenestraz, who finished third in the starting race on Fuji and fourth on the wet on Suzuka, believes that the quality of racing in 2022 has improved thanks to Toyota, which has reduced the gap with Honda.
“It’s definitely more equal to Honda and Toyota,” Fenestraz said when Motorsport.com asked his opinion on Toyota’s improvement this year after qualifying for Suzuka.
“Until last year we could clearly see that Honda is making a big step in qualifying, now it is not. We also know that Honda tends to fight in hot conditions more than we do.
“I think Toyota and Honda are on the same level – it’s very good, for me it’s a step towards a better race with the changes from last year to this year.”
Fenestraz teammate Kondo Racing Yamashita offered a similar view in response to a request from Motorsport.com.
“Honda and Toyota are not at war for development, so I think it’s a delicate matter,” Yamashita said. “Toyota’s teams clearly lost last year, but this year I don’t know if Toyota has improved so much or Honda.” grace us and slowed down!
“It’s one race, so I think it’s better not to make a difference [in engine performance]. Since the beginning of this year, Toyota and Honda look about the same in terms of performance, so I think the current situation is good.
Despite Toyota’s improvement, Honda contender Nodira still leads the championship with a win and two second places from the first three races, 16 points behind Hirakawa, who was seventh on Suzuka.
Another Honda driver, Suzuka winner Nobuhara Matsushita, equals Fenestras in third place.
Nodir will not pay attention to whether Honda’s performance has changed compared to last year, but noted that, in his opinion, the passage of the overtaking system has become more difficult than in 2021.
“Looking back at the Fuji race, I think last year teams with Honda engines had an advantage when using OTS, but now it seems like it’s about 50-50,” the reigning champion said.