Karthikeyan finishes sixth in tough Super Formula weekend

Fuji: Indian racing driver Narain Karthikeyan finished a creditable sixth in the main race of the Japan-based Super Formula Championship Round 2 at the Fuji Speedway here today.

Karthikeyan, who battled with engine problems all weekend, gained two places in the 35-lap race to claim his first points of the season.

The former Formula 1 driver had finished seventh in the 25-lap sprint race in the morning after starting ninth on the grid. He was forced to retire in the season opener at Suzuka last month.

His teammate at Team Lenovo Impul, JP de Oliveira from Brazil, won the first race from pole position before he held on to second place in the afternoon.

The Brazilian along with other expats Andre Lotterer, who has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, and 2013 Le Mans winner Loic Doval, have more than five years of racing experience in Japan.

Karthikeyan, who did a Formula Nippon (now Super Formula) season way back in 2001, said he has lots to learn about the tracks and conditions in Japan before he can be a regular podium contender.

"It was a tough weekend starting from practice, where I suffered a tyre failure. The loss of 20 minutes due to an engine problem cost me valuable track time in second practice. I could not improve much in the races for the surprising lack of straight line speed," said Karthikeyan, who collected four points from the double header, referring to the change in engine from the last round where he had qualified on the front row.

The loss of speed on the 1.5 km main straight also cost
him dear.

"Looking ahead, I think I have a lot of catching up to do with the other foreign guys who have been racing here from the past 10 years. There is a two-month gap between the next round, I will use this time to improve my fitness. There is a lot more downforce in these cars compared to HRT I drove in F1, putting extra strain on the neck," added the 37-year-old.

Things looked promising for Karthikeyan at the start of the Race 2. He got a good getaway, which helped him jumped to fourth from eighth on the opening lap. He, however, lost the advantage after his mandatory pit stop on lap 14 and a mistake at the penultimate corner later resulted in the loss of fifth place to reigning champion Naoki Yamamoto.

The third round of the spec-series also takes place here on July 12-13. 

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