Hirakawa wants more “aggressive” Impul approach at Autopolis

Hirakawa wants more “aggressive” Impul approach at Autopolis

Hirakawa has scored two podium finishes from the opening three races of the 2023 season, with third-place finishes in both the opening race at Fuji and the most recent round at Suzuka.

However, he had to come through from ninth on the grid at the latter track after ending up a little over a second off the pace of pacesetter Toshiki Oyu in the Q2 pole shootout.

Key to qualifying success in Super Formula is adjusting the car between the first and second segments to better suit the conditions, something that two-time champion Tomoki Nojiri has proven particular adept at.

Reflecting on his continuing lack of one-lap pace relative to the likes of Nojiri, Hirakawa said that for next week’s Autopolis round Impul should consider making a bigger change to the set-up after Q1.

“To be honest the car felt good, but the laptime was not there,” Hirakawa told Motorsport.com. “We need to do something aggressive, because usually we are only doing little things.

“We should try to do a big change in Autopolis, to see the difference and see how the car balance changes. If you make it through Q1, there isn’t much to lose.”

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Hirakawa’s charge to the podium was aided by a safety car period that allowed he and eventual winner Ritomo Miyata to change their tyres late on and go on the attack in the final part of the race.

However, any chances of Hirakawa winning evaporated when he was passed by the TOM’S machine of Miyata – who started 12th after losing his best time in Q2 for a track limits infraction – in the opening stint.

“I don’t know why but I felt a vibration with the first set of tyres,” said Hirakawa. “It was affecting the car balance, so I couldn’t push enough. I had a lot of understeer, so I was struggling.

“I knew if I didn’t box on lap 10 I had to stay out long, so I tried to keep up the pace, but it was hard.

“I think we focused too much on Saturday and we forgot about Sunday. We saw this time that Miyata could win from P12 on the grid. If you have good race pace, you can always have a chance.”

Hirakawa now heads to Autopolis eager to repeat his victory at the scenic Kyushu venue of 12 months ago.

“Of course we need to improve qualifying but we should consider more the race pace,” said the 29-year-old. “So I hope I can do the same as last year.”

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