Shock in the racing world: Will Spec Dampers ruin Super Formula’s competitive edge?

Tomoki Nojiri, a name synonymous with excellence in the Super Formula series, recently shared his apprehensions about the proposed shift to standardized dampers in the 2024 season. As a two-time champion on the cusp of possibly securing a third title at the Suzuka season finale, Nojiri’s words bear considerable weight. The crux of his concerns? The spec damper move might hamper the close-knit competition, a signature feature of the series.

The idea of introducing a common damper to Super Formula was brought to light back in July. The move represents a significant departure from the traditional values and philosophies of this Japanese single-seater series. Digging into the motivations behind this change, it appears that cost-cutting might be the key driver. Some teams seemingly want to lessen budget strains, and a standard damper could be an answer.

Nojiri, while understanding the financial rationale behind the move, doesn’t seem convinced about its overall impact on the competition. When asked, his response tilted towards the negative. The Team Mugen racer, who switched to a new chassis before June’s Sugo race, hinted that the damper restrictions could lead to more racers grappling with challenging car behaviors.

“In motorsports, a car is an intricate puzzle of numerous parts, each with its nuances,” Nojiri opined. “One major aspect of car setup is ironing out these minute variations. Introducing a universal damper could exacerbate these disparities, making car adjustments challenging. At present, we have the liberty to experiment with different damper types, allowing for a more evenly matched series. Standardized dampers could throw this balance off, making it tricky to account for car traits such as understeer or oversteer.”

Rumblings in the paddock suggest that Ohlins might emerge as the preferred damper brand in 2024. If true, Toyota teams could enjoy an unintended advantage as many already incorporate Ohlins dampers in their setup.

In addition to the damper standardization, Super Formula plans to outlaw third elements or ‘inerters’, mirroring Formula 1’s 2022 rule amendments.