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Kenta Yamashita has expressed concern over the lack of progress at Kondo Racing after struggling to his worst end to the Super Formula season so far at Fuji.
Yamashita trailed to 17th on Sunday in his worst outing of the season, ending a points streak dating back to his third-place finish at the same track in April.
His teammate Kazuto Kotaka didn’t do much better, finishing up to 14th place from the back of the grid.
Kondo slipped from fourth to sixth in the team standings at Fuji as rivals Dandelion Racing and Nakajima Racing notably took a big leap forward.
Despite their strong start to the season, Yamashita admitted that Kondo was still struggling to master this year’s new SF23 package and that events at Fuji showed how the team had slipped down the pecking order.
“We don’t really know why we are struggling,” Yamashita told Motorsport.com. “Even this weekend, until FP2, the pace was not bad. But in the race we were suddenly slow.
“We don’t have a deep understanding of the car yet. We still don’t understand why the car behaves a certain way. I feel like we haven’t made much progress as a team.
“Qualifying was not bad, I was the second best Toyota racer (in Q2), but our race speed was terrible.
Yamashita had started eighth but lost ground at the start, also making contact with driver Inging Sho Tsuboi at the first corner, but he believes this caused no damage to his Kondo car that would explain his poor pace.
“I don’t think it had that much effect,” Yamashita said of her contact with Tsuboi. “It was just a small touch.
“I got off to a bad start, lost about three positions on the line. And then after that at the hairpin I couldn’t turn properly and went off on my own. I lost more seats there and I was basically last at that point.
“Then the car didn’t feel good, the pace was poor and it was just about getting to the end.”
Kotaka has finished in the points twice in six races so far, culminating with a best finish of seventh at Suzuka, but Fuji’s race marked the first time he finished ahead of Yamashita.
After qualifying at the very back of the grid, the reigning Super Formula Lights champion reported that adjusting his car to combat the understeer he experienced in testing last month had turned against him.
“We changed the settings a lot since qualifying and I felt like the car was better, but the pace was worse than I expected in the race,” said Kotaka, who finished first. of the second practice session on Sunday morning.
“But compared to qualifying, I think the car was good enough for around 10th, so I want to work with the engineers to improve further for the next race at Motegi.”