Honda’s left-field choose for a shot at F1 feeder sequence glory

Again in 2013, it was revealed that Honda would resurrect its engine provide settlement with McLaren beginning in 2015, giving Japanese drivers a transparent route on to the European single-seater ladder for the primary time since Honda and Toyota had pulled out of F1 within the wake of the 2008 world monetary disaster.

F3 graduate Koudai Tsukakoshi had made it so far as testing a GP2 automobile in late 2008 earlier than Honda’s bombshell left with him no possibility however to return to Japan, and after Toyota adopted one yr later, GP2 could be devoid of Japanese illustration for 4 years.

That every one modified when Honda’s return to F1 opened up the possibility for the marque to put one among its junior drivers at no lesser crew than ART Grand Prix – which had taken Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg to title glory – for the 2014 season.

Honda’s six-year absence from F1 created a ‘misplaced technology’ of home expertise that both didn’t get the possibility to race in Europe in any respect, like now three-time Tremendous System champion Naoki Yamamoto, or had the rug out of the blue pulled from underneath their ft, like Tsukakoshi.

Takuya Izawa will also be thought of a member of this group. Having made his debut in what was then often known as System Nippon and SUPER GT’s GT500 class in 2008, Izawa was well-established as one among Honda’s high home drivers when he bought the relatively sudden name to affix McLaren protege Stoffel Vandoorne at ART in GP2.

Izawa was 29 and well-established in Super Formula when he got the call-up to join ART

Izawa was 29 and well-established in Tremendous System when he bought the call-up to affix ART

Funnily sufficient, it wouldn’t be the primary time Izawa raced in Europe. Again in 2003, he had contested the German System Renault 2000 sequence with backing from ARTA, which was going by a part of backing many Japanese drivers to race abroad (cf. Katsutomo Kaneishi within the DTM and Kosuke Matsuura in System Renault V6 Eurocup).

There have been no wins, however Izawa did end a decent seventh within the standings, and was armed with data of two tracks – Hockenheim and the Crimson Bull Ring – for his GP2 marketing campaign a decade later. The remaining he must be taught from scratch, and when it comes to Izawa’s profession the ART likelihood was very a lot a case of proper place, incorrect time.

“It was tough, particularly as I used to be already 30 years previous on the time,” Izawa remembers talking to “It was a very good expertise however some unhealthy recollections. My teammate was Stoffel, he was very quick, however for me it was tough with the crew. 

“I needed to be taught virtually each circuit on the schedule, and we solely had 45 minutes of follow every weekend. After which, in follow you normally use the arduous tyre, and in qualifying the mushy tyre… that was additionally arduous to adapt to. 

“In Tremendous System the crew normally adjustments the automobile set-up to swimsuit the driving force, however in GP2 it was the opposite method round, you must adapt to the automobile.”

Izawa had to learn most tracks on the GP2 schedule from scratch with limited practice time

Izawa needed to be taught most tracks on the GP2 schedule from scratch with restricted follow time

Given the large drawback that Izawa confronted when it comes to monitor data, it was little shock that a few of his finest performances got here within the Bahrain opener – the place he had examined beforehand – and Austria, which was a brand new venue for GP2 because the Crimson Bull Ring returned to the F1 calendar that yr.

The spotlight of the yr got here within the Hungary function race, as a well-timed pitstop throughout a security automobile interval allowed Izawa to come back dwelling fourth from the again of the grid. That grew to become third place when Stefano Coletti was penalised post-race. Recalled Izawa: “I couldn’t stand on the rostrum, I simply bought given the trophy afterwards!”

Sochi, additionally a brand-new venue for 2014, was the one weekend of the yr the place Izawa genuinely challenged the front-runners in qualifying, grabbing third on the grid (his finest up up to now was sixteenth). However this time the security automobile proved his undoing as he had began on medium tyres, stayed out after which locked up on the restart, lastly trailing dwelling twentieth after his pitstop.

By this time it was clear that Izawa was already eyeing up a return to Japan, having accepted a proposal to affix Ryo Michigami’s new Drago Corse crew in Tremendous System and making his comeback at Sugo a few weeks earlier than the Sochi GP2 spherical. 

Certain sufficient, in 2015 Izawa returned to Tremendous System and SUPER GT whereas ART tried out each Tsukakoshi and Nobuharu Matsushita within the post-season Abu Dhabi take a look at earlier than deciding on Matsushita, 9 years the junior of Izawa, as Vandoorne’s 2015 teammate.

Izawa handed the baton over to Matsushita (right), who enjoyed a much more successful stint in GP2/F2

Izawa handed the baton over to Matsushita (proper), who loved a way more profitable stint in GP2/F2

Izawa’s Tremendous System profession by no means recovered from his GP2 detour. After two years of being a frontrunner for Dandelion Racing, successful three races and peaking at third within the standings, he was positioned at Actual Racing for his return season in 2015, and wouldn’t win a race once more – though he would get his previous Dandelion seat again in 2017 after it was vacated by none apart from Vandoorne.

Izawa lastly bowed out of Tremendous System after one season with Nakajima Racing in 2018 and since then he has centered solely on SUPER GT, switching over from ARTA to Satoru Nakajima’s eponymous squad in 2020. Now 38 and the elder statesman of the Honda GT500 line-up, there’s a sense that it received’t be lengthy earlier than the newer technology inevitably takes over.

“For positive if I didn’t go to GP2 possibly my profession would have been totally different,” says Izawa when requested if he has any regrets about his European sojourn. “Nevertheless it’s arduous to say it could have been higher or worse! I’m nonetheless driving [in SUPER GT], so it’s okay. 

“I need to keep right here so long as potential, however I perceive that the time is coming quickly to complete my profession. That’s why I actually need to win a race with [Nakajima] and Dunlop. If in case you have good outcomes, you possibly can keep right here.”

Izawa knows he faces pressure to hang on to his SUPER GT seat at Nakajima

Izawa is aware of he faces stress to hold on to his SUPER GT seat at Nakajima

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