For the third time in the last three Autobacs Super GT Series races at Fuji Speedway, the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri duo of Shinichi Takagi and Takashi Kobayashi will start from pole position.
Kobayashi set a blistering benchmark of a 1:37.600 on an extremely hot track in Q1, and Takagi secured pole position for the #55 ARTA BMW M6 with a pole-winning lap of 1:37.545 – nearly two seconds slower than Kobayashi’s GT300 lap record from May, but still three-tenths faster than Richard Lyons’ best lap in the #21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (with Tomonobu Fujii) – which occupies the outside of the front row for tomorrow.
The pole is Takagi’s 15th career GT300 pole position – and he and Kobayashi are the defending winners of this 300km event.
Eight different cars from seven different manufacturers make up the top ten qualifiers in GT300, mostly dominated by the high-power FIA GT3-specification machines.
The second row will feature the #51 JMS LM Corsa Ferrari 488 (Akihiro Tsuzuki/Morio Nitta), and the best of the JAF-GT300 cars, the #61 Subaru R&D Sport BRZ (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi) – the latter carrying a live onboard broadcast camera, more on that story tomorrow.
Fifth was the #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka), which struggled for top speed in practice but belted out a lap to emerge as fastest of the Mercedes-AMGs. Sixth-fastest was the hybrid-powered #31 apr Toyota Prius GT (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama) that won at Sportsland Sugo.
The #65 Leon Cvstos AMG-GT3 (Haruki Kurosawa/Naoya Gamou) went seventh-quickest, ahead of the #88 ManePa Lamborghini Huracan (Manabu Orido/Kazuki Hiramine) which went a respectable eighth.
Takeshi Tsuchiya and Takamitsu Matsui did an amazing job in the #25 VivaC Team Samurai Toyota 86 MC, getting the car into Q1, and then getting the car into a comfortable 9th on the grid, ahead of the #63 Direction Lamborghini Huracan (Naoki Yokomizo/Adrian Zaugg) whose tenth place result is by far their best effort to date.
Hiroki Katoh (#2 Syntium Apple Lotus Evora), Kota Sasaki (#30 apr Toyota Prius GT), and rookie Yuya Motojima (#26 Taisan SARD R8) each did well to finish 3rd, 4th, and 8th in Q1 – but they’ll start 14th, 13th, and 12th on the grid after handing the car over to their elder co-drivers for Q2.
There was disappointment abound for the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s that all missed Q2: The #3 B-Max NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Jann Mardenborough) that won in May, starts 17th. The #48 Dijon Racing GT-R (Mitsunori Takaboshi/Takayuki Aoki), tipped as a threat for a points finish with the addition of Takaboshi, was only 18th, and the defending GT300 champions, the #0 Gainer Tanax GT-R (Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita), were 19th.
The elation over ARTA’s hat trick of poles contrasted with the disappointment in the BMW Team Studie garage, as the #7 Studie M6 (Jorg Muller/Seiji Ara) was relegated to 20th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
A red flag emerged with 3’52” left in Q1 after the #108 Direction Lamborghini Huracan (Kyosuke Mineo/Jono Lester) broke down on the inside shoulder at 300R. Given that the car wasn’t even expected to run for the rest of the day, that Mineo even got to run laps was quite astounding from the beleaguered Direction 108 team. They’ll start last on the grid.