Sacha Fenestraz, The Rookie Contender at TOM’s Racing –

Sacha Fenestraz never had a favourite GT500 car growing up as a child. He admits that he never envisioned himself racing full-time in Japan as a factory driver. After all, his goal, like that of many other young racing drivers, was to race in Formula 1. And not that long ago, Fenestraz was on a direct path to that goal.

“I mean, of course, I’m not happy with how it went in Europe when I was back in the F1 Academy,” says Fenestraz, as he commutes back to his apartment from a meeting with Toyota Gazoo Racing on a Wednesday evening. “But I think I’m quite happy now, and enjoying it here – compared to where I was two years ago.”

Fenestraz turned 16 in the middle of his first season of single-seaters, the 2015 French Formula 4 Championship – where he finished second in the championship. The next year, he stepped up to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 – where the only rookie driver that bested him that season was the eventual series champion, his fellow prospect from British management firm ADD Management, and his one-time flatmate – future McLaren F1 driver, Lando Norris. But Fenestraz had done enough in his rookie season in the Eurocup – including a maiden victory on the streets of Monaco – to attract the attention of Renault, who signed him up to the Renault Sport Academy. Fenestraz rewarded his new supporters with the Eurocup title in 2017, beating out the likes of current Formula 2 top prospects Robert Schwartzman and Dan Ticktum along the way.

But as soon as Fenestraz began the climb towards F1, the bottom seemed as it had dropped out. His rookie year in the European Formula 3 Championship was solid in a vacuum. Many young drivers would be happy with a win and 11th in the standings in their first year. But it was well below the goal of a top-three finish in the championship that the French automaker had set out for Fenestraz. Not even a cup of coffee in the series now known as FIA Formula 3, or even a third-place podium finish at the Macau Grand Prix at the end of the season, was going to be enough to convince Renault to retain Fenestraz in their academy for 2019.

© Toyota

So Fenestraz and his management team found a new opportunity in Japan, where he immediately set out to reinstate himself as one of the brightest young stars of his generation. The partnership of Motopark Academy and B-Max Racing Team gave Fenestraz a properly competitive seat in the 2019 All-Japan Formula Three Championship, and after winning five of the first six races, he took the championship over TOM’s Racing and third-year driver Ritomo Miyata – the odds-on preseason favourites to win the championship. This also made Fenestraz the series’ final champion before All-Japan F3 was repackaged into Super Formula Lights for 2020.

And while he was no longer a Renault Sport Academy prospect, he did manage to land his first ride in sports…

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