After a dramatic rain-hit race, Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan’s third outing in the 2014 Super Formula championship resulted in a seventh place finish at Fuji Speedway in Japan.
Karthikeyan started from 11th place on the grid following a tough qualifying session on Saturday, where he found it tricky to adapt to a few sections of the 4.5-kilometre layout.
But after detailed overnight analysis coupled with a few changes in driving style, Narain was far more comfortable in the Dallara SF14 during the morning warm-up and despite starting from the sixth row, progress looked possible with some changing weather also forecast during the race.
But things eventually turned out to be far more dramatic than anyone had bargained for, with the race starting in the dry and rain hitting the circuit during lap 45 (of 55 laps).
“It was one of the craziest races I’ve ever been in – no one really knew what the weather would do and any call you took was a gamble. We were third for a few laps and then the safety car came out and elected to stay out on wets like the two cars ahead of us, but eventually it didn’t pay off”, commented Narain after the race.
When the shower hit the circuit, Narain was running 8th after having picked his way through from 11th – passing the likes of reigning Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto around the outside of turn one after an intense battle. Next up was last year’s Fuji Super Formula race winner Yuji Kunimoto, and the Japanese driver was dispatched at the same spot, this time with a late dive on the brakes on the inside.
As the rain came down, some cars elected to stop for wet tyres while others stayed out hoping that the rain would subside and the track would dry out – giving them an advantage over the wet tyre runners.
It was looking like the call to stay out had paid off, especially after the Safety Car came out following a few spins and crashed cars synonymous with such conditions. But the rain intensified thereafter, and the safety car went in with four laps of the race remaining.
From then on, it was a struggle to hold track position with cars on wet tyres charging from behind. But despite a few moments, Narain managed to hold on and finish seventh – right behind this year’s 24 hour Le Mans winner André Lotterer.