Super GT Fuji: Yamashita takes pole for finale in Rookie Toyota
Rookie Racing Toyota driver Kenta Yamashita snatched pole position for this weekend's Fuji Super GT finale with a new lap record, beating Honda's pre-race points leader Naoki Yamamoto.
Yamashita had already broken his own benchmark from 2020 in free practice, but in the first segment of qualifying Yamamoto's Kunimitsu team-mate Tadasuke Makino lowered the bar further with a best time of 1m26.000s aboard the #1 Honda NSX-GT.
Yamamoto was then the first driver to dip beneath the 1m26s barrier in Q2 with a 1m25.867s, which appeared to be enough for pole until Yamashita fired in a 1m25.764s in the dying moments of the session to take pole in the #14 Toyota GR Supra he shares with Kazuya Oshima.
The bonus point reduces the deficit between Yamashita/Oshima and Yamamoto to 19 points, but it means the Rookie Racing duo still have to win the race with Yamamoto finishing 10th or worse to have any chance of the title.
Ryo Hirakawa was third-fastest in the #37 TOM'S Toyota, followed by two other GR Supra drivers in the form of Sho Tsuboi in the #36 TOM'S machine and Heikki Kovalainen for SARD.
Yamamoto's nearest rivals in the championship, ARTA duo Tomoki Nojiri and Nirei Fukuzumi, will start sixth after Fukuzumi lapped 0.405s off the pace in Q2. However, Yamamoto failing to get the bonus point for pole means that a victory would be enough for the title even if Yamamoto is second.
Yuji Tachikawa (Cerumo Toyota) and sole Nissan representative Kohei Hirate (NDDP/B-Max) rounded out the order in a session in which the top seven all broke the pre-existing lap record.
The third of the title-contending Hondas, the #17 Real Racing machine of Koudai Tsukakoshi and Bertrand Baguette, was knocked out in Q1 as Tsukakoshi could only manage 10th behind the #23 NISMO Nissan of Tsugio Matsuda.
Kazuki Hiramine was a disappointing 14th-fastest in the last of the six mathematical championship hopefuls, the Impul GT-R.
In GT300, Subaru took a step closer to its first-ever title as Hideki Yamauchi made it four poles from eight races this year at the wheel of the works R&D Sport BRZ.
Both Yamauchi and his nearest rival in Q2, Toyota GR Supra driver Kohta Kawaai (Saitama Toyopet Green Brave), broke the pre-existing GT300 record at Fuji. But it was Yamauchi who came out on top with a 1m34.395s, earning a bonus point that extends his and Takuto Iguchi's points lead to seven. A top-two finish in the race would be good enough to secure them the championship.
Behind the leading two, Hiroki Yoshimoto made it two Toyotas in the top three for LM Corsa, followed by Takashi Kogure in the best of the JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3s and Naoya Gamou in the LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Super GT Motegi: ARTA wins as Impul runs out of fuel
Super GT Fuji: Toyota steals title from Honda, TOM'S champions