Ayrton Senna at the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix
© NorioKoike©ASE
F1

Will Ayrton Senna’s Okayama lap record be broken after 25 years?

With a legendary record to break, a series championship to play for and some wicked weather on the horizon, the penultimate stage of the 2019 Super Formula is all to play for.
Written by Sammy Lee
3 min readPublished on
Mike Chen and Martin Plowman present Round 6 of the Super Formula series live from Okayama, Japan, on Red Bull TV. Qualifying live on September 28 from 05.25am CEST and the main race live on September 29 from 05:10am CEST.
Way back in 1994, racing legend Ayrton Senna set a lap record at the TI Circuit Aida after he claimed pole at the Pacific Grand Prix in his Williams Renault FW16.
Hailed for popularising Formula One in Japan – not only was he was involved in three famous world championship deciders at Suzuka, but he also brought Honda to the top first with Lotus and then McLaren – even now Senna continues to influence motorsport and broader pop culture across the country.
The racing legend claimed pole and set an unbroken lap record in his Williams Renault FW16.
Ayrton Senna at the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix
Now, 25 years later, at the renamed, Okayama International Circuit, could we see the F1 legend’s hitherto never-bettered qualifying of 01:10:218 time smashed?
With the Japanese leg of the F1 tour now held at the Suzuka Circuit, it’s down to the participants in the sixth round of the 2019 Super Formula Championship (September 27-29) to take a shot at the top.
With leaps forward in technology and skill, there’s a decent chance of the record finally being broken at the technically challenging course.
Partly responsible for the rise in record-breaking expectations is the introduction of the Dallara SF19. Replacing the SF14, the new vehicle is both faster and safer than the outgoing model that had been in use since 2014. The cars at this Japanese domestic series are the quickest of any F1 feeder, testing the mettle of drivers like Pierre Gasly and Stoffel Vandoorne before they stepped up to the big leagues.
But then a car is no good without its driver and this season's Super Formula has raised the bar high.
Championship leader Nick Cassidy, who currently stands one point ahead of last year's champion Naoki Yamamoto, will be keeping one eye on the record and another on solidifying his lead ahead of the final series round at the Suzuka Circuit on October 27.
Ryo Hirakawa is focusing on the 5th round of the Super GT Series at Fuji Speedway on August 5, 2018.
Ryo Hirakawa at Fuji Speedway
Meanwhile, current 10th place holder Ryo Hirakawa (who won his first victory in the fifth round at the Twin Ring in Motegi) and newly minted Red Bull Junior Team members Patricio O’Ward and Lucas Auer, alongside hopeful outsider Harrison Newey are looking forward to tackling the notoriously tricky track.
Lucas Auer is seen during the Super Formula Rookies Test in Suzuka, Japan on December 5, 2018.
Lucas Auer in Suzuka
“We are going to be concentrating on race pace,” says the 25-year-old Auer, who came in seventh at Motegi. "I have never driven this track before but I was in the Red Bull sim before I flew over. It’s a technical track, quite short with elevation changes.”
“I've been here all week and really had a good time,” says 20-year-old Mexican O’Ward as he gears up for his third outing in the series. “I had a sim session on Monday, so at least I know which way the track goes!”
Patricio O’Ward during 2019 Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
Rising star Patricio O’Ward
With a course record to break, a penultimate series event with all to play for and some rough weather on the horizon, it’s sure to be a must-watch weekend.
“The forecast for the weekend is a typhoon,” says Auer. “That will be something dramatic if it happens!”
Watch round 6 of the Super Formula series live from Okayama, Japan, on Red Bull TV on September 28 from 05.25am CEST and September 29 from 05:10am CEST.