Vips has been forced to miss the opening two rounds of the season at Motegi and Autopolis due to Japan’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, and will also sit out this weekend’s Sugo race.
His place at Team Mugen has been filled by Ukyo Sasahara, but the Estonian is now on track to take up his seat alongside Tomoki Nojiri at Autopolis on November 15.
It will mark his first race outing since his debut in last year’s Suzuka finale, and his first track time in his Honda-powered Dallara SF19 since the first pre-season test at Fuji Speedway in March, before the season was put on hold amid the global health crisis.
While Japan loosened its travel restrictions at the start of this month, allowing new applicants for visas, it’s understood Vips simply ran out of time to complete his application in the short window required to serve a 14-day quarantine ahead of the Sugo race.
On the other hand, B-Max Racing driver Sergio Sette Camara – who likewise missed the Motegi and Okayama races – was able to enter the country in time to race at Sugo.
It’s understood that had it been possible to secure a visa earlier, Vips would have skipped the most recent round of the Formula Regional European Championship that took place two weeks ago at Mugello, shortly after which he made the journey to Japan.
Juri Vips, Team Mugen
He will therefore miss this weekend’s fifth round of the Formula Regional season at Monza, and Japan’s quarantine requirements make it unlikely that Vips will contest either of the two remaining rounds this season that do not clash with Super Formula weekends.
This also means it is unlikely Vips will meet the revised criteria to earn a Super License this year, as he would require a fourth-place finish overall in either Super Formula or Formula Regional to meet the new 30-point threshold required to be considered for one (he currently sits sixth in the standings of the latter series).
However, the new rules announced by the FIA allow drivers to take four years to reach the regular 40-point requirement, counting their three best scores from that time period.
Sasahara meanwhile is set for his final Super Formula start for the time being this weekend at Sugo, where he will be hoping to score his first points of the season.
Ukyo Sasahara, Team Mugen
The Mugen SUPER GT regular finished 11th on his debut at Motegi and followed that up with 13th at Okayama, where an actuator problem forced him to start from the pitlane.
Also expected to take up his seat for the first time this season at Autopolis is B-Max signing Charles Milesi, while Irish racer Lucca Allen is reportedly preparing to contest the remainder of the Super Formula Lights season having missed the opening part of the campaign.