Motegi is probably best known as a MotoGP circuit. But in the Japanese motorsport world, it's Super Formula that makes the headlines. This weekend, the series formerly known as Formula Nippon has its penultimate round of the 2021 championship.
It's set to be an exciting contest.
What is Super Formula?
Super Formula is a national championship for open-wheel racing cars. It's descended from the Formula 2 regulations of the 1970s and is sometimes seen as an alternative route to Formula 1.
The cars are all identical Dallara chassis but there are two engine suppliers: Honda and Toyota. Former champions include F1 winner Ralf Schumacher, and World Endurance champions Loïc Duval, André Lotterer, and Kazuki Nakajima. This weekend sees the return of Kamui Kobayashi to the Super Formula category.
The Super Formula Championship awards 25 points towards the FIA Super License. 40 of these points over three seasons makes a driver eligible for Formula 1. Unlike FIA Formula 2 and some other steps on the ladder to Formula 1, champions can return and defend their title.
Motegi in gaming
Motegi has been a staple of both MotoGP and Gran Turismo games. The circuit has also appeared in some of the earlier Forza Motorsport games. It's a tricky one to master, with hard braking zones at the end of short straights but also some medium-speed corners in the middle sector.
Motegi is also known as the Twin Ring because there's an oval as well as the regular road course. The road course passes under the oval and loops through the middle of it. Unlike Daytona or Charlotte, there's no "roval" route.
Simulation fanatics can also drive the Motegi circuit in iRacing.
Super Formula in 2021
Three-time champion Naoki Yamamoto switched teams this year and has struggled in his title defense. This has opened the door for Tomoki Nojiri, who has won three of the five rounds so far this season.
If anyone is going to stop Nojiri, this is very much the last chance. Toshiki Oyu and a couple of other drivers are theoretically in with a shot if they can win and Nojiri fails to take points. A good finish for the points leader this weekend will seal the title.
Behind the lead battle, though, there's plenty of intrigue. How will Kobayashi and Nakajima fare on their return to the series? Can Alfa Romeo test driver Tatyana Calderon pick up her first Super Formula points at the track where she ran so well last year?
Watching Super Formula
Super Formula is streamed live and as a video-on-demand on motorsport.tv and on Red Bull TV. Race coverage starts at 6:30am on Sunday in the UK or 10pm Saturday Pacific Time in the US.
With both of these outlets, you can also catch up on previous races. This could be a good way to get through a weekend with no Formula 1!