Mid-engined cars paced the Saturday practice session for the 45th International Suzuka 1000km. The #15 Drago Modulo Honda NSX-GT (Hideki Mutoh/Oliver Turvey) went fastest in GT500, while the GT300 class was led by the #2 Syntium Apple Lotus Evora MC (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh/Tadasuke Makino).
Mutoh set the Drago NSX’s fastest time of the day, a 1:47.910, mid-way through the 1 hour, 45 minute practice session. It was just three-tenths off the GT500 lap record set in 2015 by Ronnie Quintarelli. The Drago NSX led a Honda 1-2 at their home track of Suzuka, with the #100 Raybrig NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Takuya Izawa) second fastest thanks to Yamamoto’s 1:48.071 lap set in the final ten minutes.
Third-fastest was the #19 WedsSport Advan Lexus RC-F (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Yuji Kunimoto), the first of the Lexus fleet had the early benchmark set by Sekiguchi – a 1:48.208.
Mitsunori Takaboshi went fourth-quickest in his very first GT500 practice session, driving the Michelin-clad #46 S Road Craftsports MOLA GT-R (with Satoshi Motoyama) to a fastest time of 1:48.820. He replaces the injured Katsumasa Chiyo and seeks to become the first rookie pole winner since Takashi Kobayashi in 2010.
The #36 au TOM’s RC-F (Daisuke Ito/Nick Cassidy) was fifth-fastest, followed by two more Lexus: the #38 ZENT Cerumo RC-F (Yuji Tachikawa/Hiroaki Ishiura) in sixth, and the #37 KeePer TOM’s RC-F (James Rossiter/Ryo Hirakawa) seventh. Cassidy, Ishiura, and Hirakawa set the cars’ best times.
The #17 Keihin NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Takashi Kogure), the #24 Forum Engineering GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/Masataka Yanagida), and the #8 ARTA NSX (Kosuke Matsuura/Tomoki Nojiri) completed the top ten.
On the maximum 100kg of success ballast, the #1 Motul Autech NISMO GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli/Tsugio Matsuda) was only 13th fastest and 1.487s adrift of the leader. Just one place ahead of the #39 Denso SARD RC-F (Heikki Kovalainen/Kohei Hirate), which Hirate crashed in the S-Curves, suffering minor rear wing damage.
In GT300, Hiroki Katoh was flying in his Lotus Evora as he did in testing, setting the best time of the class with a 1:58.603. Just two-tenths slower than that benchmark in the same car, however, was the 19-year-old Super GT rookie, Tadasuke Makino, in his debut event.
Naoya Gamou broke up a JAF GT 1-2-3 in practice by turning the second-fastest time in the #65 Leon Cvstos Mercedes-AMG GT3, but was still nearly 0.7s slower than Katoh’s best time in the Lotus.
The #25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC (Takeshi Tsuchiya/Takamitsu Matsui/Kenta Yamashita) was third quickest, ahead of their Mother Chassis allies the #18 Upgarage 86 MC (Yuhki Nakayama/Shinnosuke Yamada). The #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka) was fifth-fastest, reinforcing the Mercedes-AMG’s great cornering abilities at Suzuka.
Completing the GT300 top ten: The #0 Gainer Tanax GT-R (Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita), the #61 Subaru R&D Sport BRZ (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi), the #31 apr Toyota Prius GT (Koki Saga/Yuichi Nakayama), the #26 Taisan SARD Audi R8 (Shogo Mitsuyama/Yuya Motojima/Shinji Nakano), and the #3 B-Max GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Jann Mardenborough).
The #7 Studie BMW M6 (Seiji Ara/Jorg Muller/Augusto Farfus) was last in GT300 after suffering from more mechanical issues in practice.