The #19 WedsSport Advan Lexus LC500 of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuji Kunimoto will likely be the favourites to extend Lexus’ unbeaten GT500 record in 2017. They proved just that, as Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh went fastest in Saturday’s free practice session for the Fuji GT 300km Race.
Sekiguchi laid down his fastest lap of the day in the #19 WedsSport LC500 in the final minutes of practice, and together with the two Lexus Team TOM’s cars who took second and third at the chequered flag, Lexus took another 1-2-3 result in practice. In GT300, it was the #55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/Sean Walkinshaw) that went fastest.
With hotter temperatures this time out than at the Fuji GT 500km Race in May, and much higher Success Ballast penalties up and down the grid, lap times were expected to be slower than they were three months ago.
Indeed, Sekiguchi’s fastest lap of 1:30.190 was nearly a second and a half slower than the fastest time in GT500 practice at the Fuji 500km, but it was still good enough to take the top spot. Carrying just 18 kilograms of ballast on board, the #19 WedsSport LC500 might have the pace to be a contender for victory this weekend.
Second-fastest was the #37 KeePer TOM’s LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa*/Nick Cassidy), which set its fastest lap on their final lap of practice, as did the #36 au TOM’s LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima*/James Rossiter). Their performances were somewhat of a surprise, carrying 74 and 72 kilos’ worth of Success Ballast, respectively, this weekend as they battle for the GT500 championship.
Best of the Nissans was the Yokohama-rubbered #24 Forum Engineering Advan GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/João Paulo de Oliveira*) in fourth), and in fifth was the best of the Hondas, the #17 Keihin NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Takashi Kogure*).
Earlier today, Honda announced that the #100 Raybrig NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Takuya Izawa*) would sport a new and updated engine. They finished 15th in the class, but with the entire field within just 0.871 seconds in practice, with Team Kunimitsu’s recent form and Honda’s confidence that they can win this weekend, one may want to wait before writing this team off just yet.
Over on the GT300 side, it was the veteran Shinichi Takagi who set the ARTA BMW’s quickest lap time of a 1:38.443 way back in the first hour of a practice session interrupted by two red flags: The first, for a spin from the #11 Gainer Tanax Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Björn Wirdheim) just at the end of the first hour, and the second, when the #52 GreenBrave Toyota Mark X MC(Taku Bamba/Shigekazu Wakisaka) spun off into the gravel at the very end of GT300 practice.
Seven of the top ten cars in GT300 practice were FIA GT3 cars. The #9 Gulf NAC Porsche 911 GT3-R (Jono Lester/Kyosuke Mineo*) ended up second, ahead of the #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka*) in third, the #21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (Richard Lyons*/Masataka Yanagida) in fourth, and the #3 B-Max NDDP Nissan GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Mitsunori Takaboshi*) fifth.
Best of the JAF-GT300/MC cars was the #30 Toyota Prius apr GT (Hiroaki Nagai/Kota Sasaki*) in a strong seventh place, once again out-pacing the #31 Prius (Koki Saga/Rintaro Kubo) in ninth.