Super Formula: Narain Karthikeyan battles to finish inside Top 15 at Sugo
Starting Round 6 in the 2017 Super Formula season, Narain Karthikeyan showed good pace in Saturday morning’s wet practice, finishing fourth being the lead Honda driver.
In the dry qualifying session later in the day, the Indian eased into Q2 together with his TCS Nakajima Racing teammate Daisuke Nakajima.
In a close Q2 session, which saw the Top 13 covered within the fastest time, Karthikeyan was 13th with Nakajima in 10th. They were the second and fourth best Honda drivers respectively.
Pole went to Kondo Racing’s Nick Cassidy, with Team Impul’s Yuhi Sekiguchi in second and Team Mugen’s Pierre Gasly in the lead Honda in third.
The race started under dry and sunny conditions as pole-sitter Cassidy near-stall moment dropped him down the order as Sekiguchi took the lead from Gasly.
For Karthikeyan, it was a steady start while battling with Docomo Dandelion's Tomoki Nojiri and Team Mugen's Naoki Yamamoto.
The 68-lap race had its moments, but it was straight up in the front as Sekiguchi slowly built a heavy lead from Gasly and Team Tom's Kazuki Nakajima - who had found its way up the order.
Towards the end, Gasly started to bring down the gap from Sekiguchi, but it was too much for the Frenchman as Sekiguchi tooj his season's second win by a mere 0.243s.
Behind, Nakajima rounded off the Top 3 as championship leader by just the 0.5 point from Gasly, Inging's Hiroaki Ishiura was sixth.
Meanwhile, the Indian driver rose up as high as 11th, before his tyre pit stop on Lap 17, which dropped him down the lower half of the field.
The ex-Formula 1 driver had Team Tom's Andre Lotterer ahead of him, before the German started making places, as Karthikeyan followed suit.
After Nakajima and Real Racing's Koudai Tsukakoshi incident on the start/finish line, both the drivers dropped off, with the former finishing a lap down in 17th.
Few incidents along with some positions made on track, allowed Karthikeyan to move up to 13th - once again he found himself behind Nojiri in the last few laps.
Despite gaining on the Japanese in the latter half of the race, the Indian had to be content with a fighting 13th - his first race finish in three outings.
The 2017 season now heads to the season-finale at Suzuka for a double-header during the October 21-22 weekend.