Super Formula drivers Ukyo Sasahara and Hiroki Otsu have escaped serious injury after a Saturday crash that sent Sasahara's car into and, ultimately, through the catch fence at the Suzuka Circuit's fastest corner, 130R. Sasahara was diagnosed with a concussion and will miss Sunday's race.
Replays show that Sasahara and Otsu went side by side into the 130R corner with Sasahara on the outside. As the two come toward the narrowing racing line, they make contact that pushes Otsu's car up into the air and sends it into a spin through a gravel trap. As that is happening, Sasahara's car is thrown sideways through the same corner without spinning and ultimately launches toward the catch fence outside the corner. While his engine and gearbox separate from the car in the initial collision with the fence, later images show that the safety cell of Sasahara's car broke through. As 130R is just past the top of Suzuka's crossover bridge, the tub fell all the way to the inside wall of the Degner Curve below.
Given the extent of the crash, Sasahara was lucky to avoid any other major injury. Every part of the car worked as intended, with breakable parts breaking apart in the first collision while the are meant to protect the driver directly stayed intact all the way down to the lower level of the course. The way the car broke without compromising the safety cell was reminiscent of what happened in Romain Grosjean's famous Bahrain crash, although this incident thankfully did not involve fire.
The crash is the latest in what has been a difficult season for Japan's two biggest domestic racing series, Super Formula and SuperGT. In June, a SuperGT race was paused after another major crash later in the corner at 130R saw one car thrown into a later section of the catch fence. Super Formula saw a significant crash in August, when Liam Lawson spun back into traffic from second on the opening lap of a race in Fuji and caused two cars to launch into the air. In all three cases, drivers have escaped serious injury.