Qualifying report

Super Formula Suzuka: Nojiri stretches points lead with pole

Reigning champion Tomoki Nojiri extended his Super Formula championship lead by grabbing pole for this weekend's Suzuka round.

Tomoki Nojiri, TEAM MUGEN

Mugen Honda driver Nojiri topped morning practice and his Q1 segment before posting a 1m36.352s in the Q2 shootout to take his second pole of the season and the ninth of his career, as well as his first at the Japanese Grand Prix venue.

The three bonus points boosts his total to 41, putting him five clear of Ryo Hirakawa, who could only manage a lowly 12th on the grid.

Nojiri's closest rival in Q2 was Kondo Racing man Kenta Yamashita, who missed out on a first pole since his 2017 rookie season by a scant 0.075s to book a spot on the front row.

Sacha Fenestraz made it two Kondo entries in the top three, continuing the Toyota-powered squad's improved recent form, ahead of Ritomo Miyata (TOM'S) in fourth and surprise package Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG) in fifth.

Next-best of the Honda runners after Nojiri was Tadasuke Makino in sixth for Dandelion Racing, followed by Suzuka pre-season test pacesetter Sho Tsuboi (Inging) and Hiroki Otsu in the second Dandelion car.

Nobuharu Matsushita was only ninth for B-Max Racing, having taken pole on Super Formula's previous visit to Suzuka last October, while Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima Racing), Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) and an out-of-sorts Hirakawa (Impul) completed the order in Q2.

Both of Team Goh's rookie drivers, who had impressed at Fuji earlier this month, were eliminated in Q1. Red Bull junior Ren Sato is set to start Sunday's race in 15th, while Atsushi Miyake will line up 21st and last.

Nojiri continued his strong stat to the Super Formula season by annexing pole position

Nojiri continued his strong stat to the Super Formula season by annexing pole position

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Likewise falling at the first hurdle were TOM'S driver Giuliano Alesi, who will start 17th at the track where he made his Super Formula debut a year ago, and Fuji poleman Ukyo Sasahara (Mugen), who was caught up behind Kunimoto's KCMG car and will line up 19th as a result.

The race is set to get underway at 2.30pm local time (GMT +9) on Sunday.

Super Formula Suzuka Q2 results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 1'36.352  
2 3 Japan Kenta Yamashita Kondo Racing 1'36.427 0.075
3 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 1'36.535 0.183
4 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1'36.557 0.205
5 18 Japan Yuji Kunimoto KCMG 1'36.626 0.274
6 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 1'36.675 0.323
7 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1'36.910 0.558
8 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 1'37.000 0.648
9 50 Japan Nobuharu Matsushita B-Max Racing Team 1'37.037 0.685
10 64 Japan Naoki Yamamoto TCS Nakajima Racing 1'37.113 0.761
11 7 Japan Kamui Kobayashi KCMG 1'37.123 0.771
12 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 1'37.172 0.820

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