Naoki Yamamoto beats Nick Cassidy to win 2018 Super Formula title at Suzuka
Team Mugen Honda's Naoki Yamamoto has won the 2018 Super Formula championship after beating Konda Racing Toyota's Nick Cassidy at Suzuka.
Yamamoto headed into the 2018 season finale at Suzuka in Japan with a five points deficit to Cassidy who had 29 to the Japanese driver's 24 with reigning champion Inging Toyota's Hiroaki Ishiura in second on 25.
With 13 points available for the winner, Yamamoto was by no means out of the picture as the Japanese driver pole position put him in prime position from his immediate rivals Cassidy and Ishiura, who only managed fourth and 11th respectively.
Yamamoto had a good start to lead the race on the soft compound with Cassidy starting on the medium in an opposite strategy. The Kiwi lost a place in his opening stint but fought well in the second stint on the soft compound to close behind Yamamoto.
The Japanese driver lost his pace advantage on the medium compound as Cassidy sprung right on his tail in the closing stages. But Yamamoto had enough to edge Cassidy out by 0.654s to not only win the final round but also take the 2018 title.
This is the 30-year-old's second Super Formula championship win after 2013, where he took the title also with Team Mugen. In the end, Yamamoto finished with 38 points after three wins with Cassidy on 37 with a win and three podiums in the 2018 season.
The Japanese driver could make it a double as he is also in contention to win the Super GT title alongside Jenson Button with Team Kunimitsu Honda as they fight against Lexus Team KeePer Tom's pairing of Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa.
Meanwhile, Ishiura's chances to retain the title vanished after a poor qualifying as the veteran racer finished 11th in the race - he ended up third in the final standings with 25 points as Team Impul's Yuhi Sekiguchi and Hirakawa rounded out the Top 5.
The teams' championship went to Konda Racing Toyota for the first-time with the pair of Cassidy and Kenta Yamashita together scoring 47.5 points to Team Mugen's 36 points scored by Yamamoto and the likes of Dan Ticktum, Nirei Fukuzumi and Sena Sakaguchi.
[Note: This story was also written by me on Formula Rapida]