Suzuka (Japan), April 12 (IANS) Indian racing driver Narain Karthikeyan started his Super Formula campaign on a strong note Saturday by qualifying second at the legendary Suzuka Circuit in the first racing weekend of the season.
The completely revamped Super Formula series, formerly known as Formula Nippon, has switched to a new Dallara SF14 chassis this year, powered by the two-litre, 550 bhp turbocharged engines, similar to the new Formula 1 regulations.
Driving for Team Impul Hoshino Racing, Karthikeyan qualified merely one-tenth behind 24 hour Le Mans winner and World Endurance Champion AndrÃ© Lotterer of Team Tom’s Toyota.
“It is incredible to qualify on the front row in the first weekend of the season, considering the competition. We managed to improve bit-by-bit over the weekend and hopefully will be in a good place for the race,” said Karthikeyan.
Former Force India reserve driver James Rossiter was fourth while 2010 edition champion and Karthikeyan’s teammate JoÃ£o Paulo de Oliveira qualified fifth.
Like F1, Super Formula features a knockout-based qualifying format with Q1, Q2 and Q3 sessions determining the final grid for the 43-lap, 250 km race Sunday.
Karthikeyan was consistently in the top 5 during the practice sessions and managed to take a considerable step forward in qualifying to get closer to the front-running Tom’s Toyota factory team.
“The Tom’s drivers have been in a class of their own throughout the weekend so splitting them is incredibly satisfying. Just four-tenths cover the top 5 so it is very close at the front,” the Indian said.
“The car is amazing, great to drive and it will be a long race with pit-stops for fuel and tyres, so quite a bit of strategy is involved. We hope that everything goes to plan and we come away with a strong result in the first weekend of the season.”