There was nearly a five month wait from the original opening round of the season due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. However that didn’t bother Sacha as he finished in third place in his debut race at Twin Ring Motegi, continuing on from his three podium finishes in Super GT this season.
The three practice sessions over the weekend were Sacha’s first chance since preseason testing session to get used to his Toyota powered car. With little experience in the Super Formula car going into the weekend, Sacha battled to find the right setup.
Going into qualifying Sacha and the team were able to improve from practice. He managed to comfortably get through into the second group and then into the top eight shoot-out for pole position with the second fastest time of anyone.
A 1m31.396s lap in Q3 for the French-Argetinian driver was only beaten by Ryō Hirakawa, putting himself on the front row for the race alongside the Japanese driver. His Kondo Racing team-mate Kenta Yamashita qualified just behind Sacha in third position.
Sacha was very happy with his qualifying result after the start of the weekend.
“I was over the moon with qualifying. I was unsure if we would make it into Q3 after free practice, maybe Q2 but not Q3. However the team worked hard through the night and we made good changes to the car so I was able qualify P2 in my first qualifying session in Super Formula.”
The track temperature had risen to a very hot 46C for the start of the race. As the race began Sacha’s team-mate beat him off the line to take second place before the first turn. Sacha was left to defend against two-time series champion Kazuki Nakajima on the first lap.
Sacha was able to keep the Team Tom’s driver as bay during the opening moments of the 35-lap race. With pitstops not mandatory in the race, Sacha was able to continuously learn from the drivers in front of him as he kept within three seconds of the top two through the majority of the race.
Eventually at the chequered flag Sacha was still just +3.331s off race-winner Hirakawa, and kept hold of the final podium position. He had a comfortable gap of around four seconds to Nakajima behind him.
Sacha thanked Kondo Racing and Toyota for helping him achieve this result in very hot conditions.
“It was a very hot race, I was told after the race that I lost over a kilogram of weight. Fortunately I didn’t find it physically tough.
“Managing the tyres became very important as we were using the same tyres for nearly an hour. Overall I think we did a very good job this weekend. The support from Toyota and the team was great to manage to finish P3 in the race.”
The result puts Sacha third in the drivers’ championship on 13 points, while the double podium finish for the Kondo Racing team puts them into the lead of the teams’ championship.
The second Super Formula round of the 2020 season will take place at the end of September at Okayama International Circuit. Before then Sacha will return to Motegi to defend his Super GT championship lead.