TOM’s man Miyata led most of Sunday’s fifth round of the season after being the top-placed driver of the seven who opted to stay on the track rather than take the opportunity to pit under the safety car , when the window opened in lap 10.
At first it looked like this strategy was going to pay off as Miyata was able to use the clear air to pull away from Sacha Fenestraz, who was best placed by the stoppers, by more than a second per lap.
But Miyata couldn’t keep up the pace as his tires wore out and his advantage over Fenestraz peaked at around 27 seconds – not enough to keep the lead after he eventually stopped on lap 46.
Far from rejoining right behind Fenestraz, a slow stop meant Miyata actually ended up in sixth after his drive through the pits, losing to fellow late stopper Tadasuke Makino, who pitted two laps earlier .
With the race ending after 70 minutes, meaning only 49 laps were completed instead of the planned 53, Miyata had little chance of making up ground on fresh tires and he finished sixth.
Reflecting on his race, Miyata said staying out after finishing fifth at the time of the safety car period, which effectively split the field, was the right move, arguing that a second behind the eventual winner Fenestraz is possible.
“I didn’t expect everyone to pit before us, so it was a great opportunity,” said Miyata. “We were the fastest among the cars that stayed out and among those that pitted, so that was good from a strategic point of view.
“We lost time when we changed the right rear wheel and it also took a long time before the tire went flat. Luckily we weren’t penalized for that, but without that I would definitely have been ahead of Makino.
“I thought I had five or six laps left [after my pitstop]so it was a surprise that I only got two laps [due to it being a timed race].
“That was a big part [of why it didn’t work out]. Likewise, the time lost when changing tires. I think without that I could have finished second.”
Despite the disappointing final result, Miyata said he was encouraged by his race pace as he pulled away from closest pursuers Makino and Ryo Hirakawa after the end of the safety car period.
“So far the problem has been the race pace,” he said. “I was always able to qualify second, third, fourth.
“But this time we improved a lot, I had the best pace, so there’s a lot of positives to take away from this weekend and I want to use that to win next time.”