After several issues forcing him onto the back foot in the run up to round two of the 2014 Super Formula series, Narain Karthikeyan managed fight his way to sixth place in the main race here at Fuji Speedway.
The weekend started on a difficult note for the Indian, who is supported by Tata Sons and Tata Motors, when engine issues saw him struggle in the top speed stakes – extremely critical given the 1.5-kilometre long main straight at the venue.
Coupled with an electronic issue that forced Narain to miss 20 minutes of practice on Saturday, it became even more difficult to keep up with the sharp end of the grid.
“From the start of the weekend we’ve sort of been on the back foot, so a sixth place was actually damage limitation to be honest”, commented Narain.
“You’re bound to have some weekends like this, given the competition and experience most other drivers have in these conditions – but the end result is better than Suzuka where we came back with no points”, said Narain referring to the incident with Loic Duval which had forced him out of the race in early stages despite having qualified second.
The completely revamped Super Formula series (erstwhile known as Formula Nippon) has switched to a new Dallara SF14 chassis this year; powered by two-litre, 550 bhp turbocharged engines – similar to the new 2014 F1 regulations.
Eighth on the grid for the main 35 lap race, Narain managed to nail the start perfectly and was fourth by the first corner. However, a lack of top speed compared to the drivers coupled with a small excursion later in the race saw him lose two places and eventually end up sixth.
“We have been constantly working on the setup front – because it is a new car, different tyres, regulations and so on so there is always something to learn”, he revealed.
“It was the first time I completed a full race distance in the Dallara SF 14 and it was incredibly physical – more than the HRT Formula 1 car I drove in 2012”, revealed Narain.
“There is an incredible amount of downforce and doing 35 laps is quite demanding so I definitely need to keep training hard to keep up with the competition”, he added.
The next round of the Super Formula Series will also be held at Fuji Speedway on 13-14 July 2014.
2014 Super Formula, Round 2, Fuji Speedway
Position Driver Time
1 André Lotterer 50’45.074
2 J P De Oliveira +3.497
3 Kazuki Nakajima +16.543
4 Loic Duval +21.069
5 Naoki Yamamoto +25.479
6 Narain Karthikeyan +32.559
7 Yuji Kunimoto +40.803
8 Ryo Hirakawa +42.301
9 Koudai Tsukakoshi +42.872
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi +49.101