Sasahara was a last minute addition to the Mugen team setup for this season, having initially looked set to miss out on a permanent seat with the Honda team for a second straight season.
Starting his year with a pole position at Fuji, the 26-year-old took his first win at the same track in July and added a second triumph in the opening race of the weekend’s Suzuka double-header. end last.
A difficult final race after contact with Sho Tsuboi left him sixth in the drivers’ standings, while his contribution also saw Mugen claim the teams’ championship for the first time in their history with one race to spare.
However, Sasahara’s future remains uncertain as Mugen prepares to take over operation of the Red Bull-sponsored car in 2023.
This will likely involve directing a driver chosen by the energy drink giant alongside defending champion Tomoki Nojiri.
Sasahara says whatever happens to Mugen next year, he feels he deserves a spot somewhere on the Honda roster.
“Saturday’s race was like a dream, and it shows what I’m capable of in Super Formula,” he told Motorsport.com.
“I won two races this season, like Nojiri and [Ryo] Hirakawa, and I was P3 among Honda riders [behind Nojiri and Tadasuke Makino]. I showed I deserved that seat and helped Mugen to the tag team title.
“We built car #15 at the end of February, there was no time at all [before the first pre-season test in March], the whole team was in their first season, and we showed what we were capable of. I’m really happy with how it went.
“If there’s no award, if there’s no seat for me next year, I don’t understand.”
Sasahara’s chief engineer for this season, Tomo Koike, has expressed his hope that Mugen can somehow find a way to keep his pilot on board, although hisSuch a result would most likely depend on the team expanding to a third car.
“Ukyo is very fast, but there are some things Honda don’t recognize about him,” Koike told Motorsport.com. “So as a team we have worked hard this year to get Honda to recognize their abilities.
“We don’t know if he has a seat next year, but everyone wants to continue working with him, and we’ve all given everything to try to keep him in the team.”
Koike was also keen to highlight how Sasahara helped Nojiri out of a preparation rut in the season-opening round at Fuji, where the eventual champion could only qualify sixth while his teammate took a surprise pole.
“Ukyo was on pole for the opening race, and at that time Nojiri’s setup wasn’t very good, so he was able to copy some elements of Ukyo’s setup and he improved” , explained Koike. “Because the tire [construction] changed from last year, we had to use totally different setups from last year.
“But we worked well as a two-car team, thanks to the combination of the two drivers, as well as the engineers and mechanics.”