Suzuka Super Formula: Fukuzumi scores maiden pole
Dandelion Racing's Nirei Fukuzumi scored his first career Super Formula pole at Suzuka, edging out fellow Honda driver Tomoki Nojiri by just under two tenths of a second.
Ex-Formula 2 racer Fukuzumi set his fastest time of 1m36.449s in the dying moments of the Q3 pole shootout to take the top spot by 0.196s ahead of championship leader Nojiri.
Fukuzumi had topped the morning practice session earlier in the day as well as his Q1 group and Q2 on his way to a first pole position in a single-seater since the Jerez GP3 round in 2017.
Behind Fukuzumi and Nojiri, Toshiki Oyu completed an all-Honda top three for Nakajima Racing, 0.224s off the pace.
Ryo Hirakawa (Impul) was the fastest of the Toyota contingent in fourth place a further tenth back, ahead of Ukyo Sasahara - again standing in for Tadasuke Makino at Dandelion Racing.
Three more Toyota-powered drivers completed the Q3 order, with Ritomo Miyata (TOM'S) sixth ahead of Yuhi Sekiguchi (Impul) and debutant Giuliano Alesi (TOM'S).
Standing for the absent Kazuki Nakajima this weekend, Alesi impressed with the second-fastest time in his Q1 group and was fifth in Q2, but ended up slowest in Q3 with a time 0.901s off the pace.
Giuliano Alesi, Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Defending champion Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima Racing) was the big name knocked out in Q2, as he ended up 10th in the second segment behind the Mugen machine of Hiroki Otsu.
Nobuharu Matsushita qualified a respectable 12th on B-Max's return to the series after both team and driver were forced to skip the season opener at Fuji, despite losing precious time in practice with an engine issue that forced him to stop on track and brought out the red flags.
Both winning SUPER GT drivers from Okayama struggled, as Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) was slowest in Q2 on his way to 14th, while Kazuya Oshima (Rookie Racing) was knocked out in Q1 and will start 16th.
Tatiana Calderon will line up 19th and last on the grid in the solo Drago Corse car.
|1||5||Nirei Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1'36.449|
|2||16||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||1'36.645||0.196|
|3||64||Toshiki Oyu||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'36.673||0.224|
|4||20||Ryo Hirakawa||Team Impul||1'36.794||0.345|
|5||6||Ukyo Sasahara||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1'36.810||0.361|
|6||37||Ritomo Miyata||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||1'36.919||0.470|
|7||19||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul||1'37.078||0.629|
|8||36||Giuliano Alesi||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||1'37.350||0.901|
|1||5||Nirei Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1'36.646|
|2||16||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||1'36.936||0.290|
|3||64||Toshiki Oyu||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'36.978||0.332|
|4||19||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul||1'36.987||0.341|
|5||36||Giuliano Alesi||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||1'37.099||0.453|
|6||20||Ryo Hirakawa||Team Impul||1'37.119||0.473|
|7||6||Ukyo Sasahara||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1'37.165||0.519|
|8||37||Ritomo Miyata||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||1'37.250||0.604|
|9||15||Hiroki Otsu||Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh||1'37.310||0.664|
|10||1||Naoki Yamamoto||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'37.426||0.780|
|12||51||Nobuharu Matsushita||B-Max Racing||1'37.594||0.948|
|14||3||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||1'37.849||1.203|
Alesi named as Nakajima's Suzuka Super Formula replacement
Suzuka Super Formula: Nojiri scores second straight win