Gran Turismo World Champion Igor Fraga has closed out his rather mixed Super Formula Lights season with a solid return at Motegi Mobility Resort.
Heading into the final rounds, Igor had an outside chance of breaking into the championship top three, but it would require beating Syun Koide — who’d scored a clean sweep at Okayama last time out — and handsomely.
Although Fraga would qualify in fourth for the first race, he’d find himself staring at the gearbox of Koide who started second alongside his championship rival Iori Kimura — with GT300 veteran Togo Suganami starting third.
Koide though got off to a poor start, and was immediately dropped to third by Suganami, while Fraga got the better run out of turn one to pass his rival before even braking for turn two.
It was the start of a rapid descent for Koide, with points leader Hibiki Taira shouldering him out of the way through turn two after getting a much better run from the final turn, also allowing Seita Nonaka and Yuga Furatani past.
Crucially that dropped Koide out of the points but third wouldn’t be enough for Fraga to keep his championship podium hopes alive. While he was well clear of Taira though, Kimura had checked out at the front and the field was sufficient spread out that there were no further changes of position in the remaining 12 laps.
It would be a sixth podium of the season for Fraga though, and the fourth in a row as he claimed useful points over the chasing Enzo Trulli.
Fraga qualified better for the longer second race, starting behind Kimura — who was now only three points behind Taira in the title fight.
Once again Kimura zipped away at the start, initially trailed by Fraga before building a gap, while Koide was much improved as he quickly carved through the field up to third.
Having closed up to within a second of Fraga by lap three though, Koide’s advances faltered as he never seemed to be quite close enough to make a serious attack as a stellar 16-lap defense followed.
Kimura was untouchable at the front, claiming the grand slam again to leap to the top of the points, with Fraga coming home 6.5 seconds later to score a fifth successive podium finish.
That left Kimura only needing to finish third or better to take the title, while Fraga could be safe in fourth overall with a fourth-place finish regardless of what Trulli could accomplish — and they’d start in prime position to do so after their respective results in race one.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Kimura flubbed his start and allowed Suganami to take a lead he’d never surrender, while Fraga too was beaten off the grid by Taiba — himself needing the win and luck to take the title.
That left Fraga needing to fend off Furatani in the early exchanges, while the two championship protagonists were now fighting for the same piece of track.
It wasn’t going to be a title fight for the ages though, as Kimura’s pace at the circuit allowed him to stretch the gap to three seconds by the checkered flag to secure the title, with Suganami taking his second win of the season by just over two. With Taiba third, Fraga had to settle for fourth.
Having seen his season get off to a slow start — literally, with a clutch issue all the way back in round one — and enduring gearbox issues at Suzuka, it’s been a solid final two events in Fraga’s maiden season in Super Formula Lights.