McLaren prospect Vandoorne headed to Japanese Super Formula

Vandoorne SF.jpg

The final stop for McLaren Honda third driver Stoffel Vandoorne on his journey to racing in Formula 1 is likely to be in Japan, where he will drive for DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing in the 2016 Japanese Super Formula Championship.

The 23-year-old Belgian's long-rumoured move to Super Formula was confirmed via an official press release from Honda. He had tested for Dandelion Racing last November, giving positive feedback of the experience despite losing time due to mechanical troubles. Vandoorne will race in Japan's top level of single-seater racing in conjunction with his duties as third driver of McLaren, behind the returning team of former World Champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Last year, Vandoorne enjoyed a record-shattering sophomore season in the GP2 Series with ART Grand Prix, claiming the series championship with seven race wins, four feature race pole positions, sixteen total podium finishes, and seven fastest laps. By the end of 2015, Vandoorne had eclipsed the GP2 career records for race wins, feature race poles, podium finishes, and total points, while also eclipsing the single-season records for wins, points, and podiums. He also ran a string of consecutive pole positions that began in late 2014 to six rounds, also a GP2 record.

In previous seasons, Vandoorne was a close runner-up to Renault F1 drivers Jolyon Palmer in the 2014 GP2 Series and Kevin Magnussen in the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, respectively. He won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship in 2012, defeating current Red Bull Racing driver Daniil Kvyat for the title, and he won in his very first races in both FR3.5 and GP2.

Vandoorne's new Dandelion Racing team have a pedigree of success in the Japanese top formula category, winning the 2012 Teams' Championship and powering British driver Richard Lyons to the 2004 Drivers' Championship. Honda will look to Vandoorne to help turn around the fortunes of a manufacturer that has since won only two races since the introduction of the current engine regulations and SF14 chassis two years ago - however, Vandoorne's teammate, 26-year-old Tomoki Nojiri, took one of those victories in the 2014 race at Sportsland Sugo.

Among the other drivers competing in Super Formula this season include Toyota LMP1 drivers Kazuki Nakajima, a two-time Super Formula champion, and newest Toyota LMP1 recruit Kamui Kobayashi, as well as three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, who won the series title in 2011. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Eddie Irvine, and Ralf Schumacher are among the most recent F1 Grand Prix winners to graduate from Japan's top formula category.

The Super Formula season will start on 24 April with the first of two rounds at Suzuka Circuit.

What do you make of Vandoorne's assignment to Super Formula, and his future F1 aspirations? Feel free to discuss this and more in the comments below.
He is probably the biggest talant outside formula 1. At least he'll spend a year in an open Wheeler, in Japan. Close to Honda. 2017/18 could be their year, with all the rule changes as well.
  • Deleted member 161052

Let's get hyped for the new Super Formula season.
When you list his accomplishments in rapid fire succession like that, it's somehow even more impressive (winning your first start in both F1 feeder series, damn). Interestingly, his rise in stature has corresponded with a fall for employers Honda, who have been struggling in pretty much every major series they compete in.

Everybody expects him to dominate Super Formula, but he'll have to overcome Toyota's apparent advantage first, which will make success in Japan his most impressive accomplishment yet.

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