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Qualifying report
Super GT Suzuka

Super GT Suzuka: Bandoh team leads all-Toyota front row

Yuji Kunimoto clinched the Racing Project Bandoh Toyota’s second consecutive Super GT pole position at Suzuka, smashing the lap record in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Yuji Kunimoto, Masataka Bandoh, Sena Sakaguchi, #19 WedsSport ADVAN GR Supra

Mitsunori Takaboshi set the early pace in the all-important pole-shootout in the #3 NDDP Racing Nissan, just over three weeks after a terrifying shunt at Fuji that forced him to spend a night in hospital.

However, a comeback pole position for Takaboshi wasn’t to be, with Kunimoto finding a major chunk on his final flying lap to post a 1m44.112s to claim pole position in the Yokohama-shod #19 Toyota GR Supra.

Ritomo Miyata made it a front row lockout for Toyota with a last-ditch attempt in the #37 TOM’S car, also usurping Tomoki Nojiri’s previous lap record to secure a season-best second spot on the grid.

Kunimoto and Miyata’s late efforts left Takaboshi third on the grid, albeit still top Nissan, with team-mate Katsumasa Chiyo having been first to go underneath the lap record with a 1m44.230s in Q1.

The #3 Nissan was built around a spare chassis following Takaboshi’s horrifying crash at Fuji, but NISMO escaped a penalty for the chassis change due to force majeure. 

Toshiki Oyu was Honda’s top representative in fourth in the Dunlop-shod Mugen car, ahead of Nobuharu Matsushita in the Real Racing NSX-GT Type S running on Bridgestone tyres.

Yuichi Nakayama was sixth in the SARD Toyota, beating the Impul Nissan of Bertrand Baguette and the #36 TOM’S Toyota piloted by Giuliano Alesi.

The points-leading Rookie Toyota will start ninth on the grid, with Kenta Yamashita failing to get into Q2 by just 0.020s in a session where the top 10 cars were separated by just over a second.

Practice pace-setter Matsuda was only 12th in the #23 NISMO Nissan

Practice pace-setter Matsuda was only 12th in the #23 NISMO Nissan

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

The #23 NISMO Nissan that set the pace in practice could only qualify 12th in the hands of Tsugio Matsuda, ahead of the remaining Bridgestone Hondas of ARTA (Nirei Fukuzumi) and Team Kunimitsu (Naoki Yamamoto).

The Cerumo Toyota squad didn't set a lap after mechanical trouble in practice that proved unrepairable in time for qualifying.

Nissan takes GT300 pole, trouble for Subaru

Riki Okusa put his Gainer Nissan on pole in the GT300 class, as Tsubasa Kondo secured a front row start for the new BMW M4 GT3.

Fuji winner Okusa lapped the Japanese Grand Prix venue in 1m56.552s in the #10 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 he shares with Ryuichiro Tomita, overcoming 45kg of ballast on his way to pole position.

Kondo, replacing BMW factory Augusto Farfus who is on Nurburgring 24 Hours duty in Team Studie’s line up, qualified a strong second after team-mate Seiji Ara topped his group in the first part of qualifying.

Third-fastest was Morio Nitta in the #96 K-tunes Racing Lexus RC F GT3, while Kiyoto Fujinami appeared to be unaffected by 66kg of success ballast as he put the championship-leading #56 Kondo Nissan fourth on the grid.

Subaru’s unbeaten pole run this year ended with what appeared to be a technical problem, with Hideki Yamauchi bringing the works BRZ to the pits after setting a purple time in sector 1.

It leaves reigning champions Yamauchi and Takuto Iguchi, who had set the fastest time in Q1, down in 16th on the grid.

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