Fukuzumi feels “different type of pressure” at Drago Corse

Fukuzumi feels “different type of pressure” at Drago Corse

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After three seasons racing for the title-winning Dandelion Racing outfit, Fukuzumi has switched to fellow Honda-powered squad Drago for the 2022 campaign, replacing Tatiana Calderon in the team’s sole entry.

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Fukuzumi won two races last year for Dandelion on his way to runner-up in the drivers’ standings behind Tomoki Nojiri, but will instead this year will drive for a team that hasn’t scored a point since its 2020 return.

The 25-year-old insists that he still feels pressure to perform despite the team’s lack of past results, but added that the atmosphere was much more enjoyable than it had been at Dandelion.

“Of course I have a lot of pressure, the team and also [sponsor] ThreeBond is expecting quite a lot,” Fukuzumi told Motorsport.com. “And I’m thinking I have to do a really good job for them. But It’s a different type of pressure.

“When I was with [Dandelion], I felt more like I had to do a good job because it’s a top team. It was completely different. Now it’s more like ‘positive’ pressure.”

Nirei Fukuzumi Threebond Drago 1

Fukuzumi described his performance in last week’s opening pre-season test at Suzuka as “better than I expected” after concluding the opening day 11th, around seven tenths slower than pacesetter Sho Tsuboi, and ending up ninth on the second day.

He added that not having a teammate to compare data with wasn’t proving a big issue, saying that this wasn’t always a help when he was part of the two-car Dandelion stable.

“I don’t think it’s a big problem,” said Fukuzumi. “I think it’s more comfortable than before, because when I was struggling we had to pay attention to my teammate’s car. Sometimes when I follow that set-up, it doesn’t change [the car behaviour], it only makes it more confusing.

“With only one car, I don’t have that feeling. I can just do things my way, which I think is good.”

Otsu making an impression at Dandelion

The driver replacing at Fukuzumi in the Dandelion stable this year, Hiroki Otsu, got his season off to a strong start at Suzuka, setting the third-fastest time across the two days behind only Tsuboi and reigning champion Nojiri.

Hiroki Otsu Docomo Team Dandel 1

He outpaced new teammate Tadasuke Makino on both days of the test, with Makino going sixth-fastest.

Otsu, who makes the move to Dandelion after taking Rookie of the Year honours last year with Team Mugen, said he could a difference between the two teams’ respective set-up philosophies.

“At both the rookie test [in December] and this test, I’ve always been in the top few positions,” Otsu told Motorsport.com. “I have a good feeling with the car, and this is even the case on old tyres.

“My impression is that the Dandelion car is more stable in fast corners. It has its good points and bad points [compared to the Mugen car], but the Dandelion car suits Suzuka well and it’s easy to drive.

“I was able to win Rookie of the Year last year, and I think that led to this opportunity. I want to do my best to take full advantage of it.”

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