EPSON NSX wins its first Pole Position of the season!
The qualifying for the FUJI GT 300km Race, Round 7 of the 2009 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, took place at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4.563km) in Shizuoka Pref. on Sept. 12. In the GT500 class the pole position was won by the EPSON NSX driven by Loic Duval, giving it the right to start from the front position in the race on the 13th.
Rain had been falling since morning and the track was wet when the practice session started at 9:05. Rain was still falling off and on when the afternoon qualifying sessions began, making the track conditions difficult and causing headaches for the teams as they tried to make the right tire choices and machine set-up.
The slippery track was causing a lot of slipping and many of the cars were spinning out on the curves. Through it all, however, Loic in EPSON NSX showed excellent machine control. On his first time attack he managed a 1 min. 45.842 sec. lap that qualified him fastest for the ensuing Super Lap (run by the top eight qualifiers one machine at a time to decide the grid positions). In that Super Lap he again ran the fastest time of the eight competitors with a 1 min. 46.111 sec. lap to win the pole position.
For Duval and for the team, this was their first PP of the season. It was also the first PP of the season for a Honda NSX machine.
In the GT300 class, the triple a GALLARDO RG-3 driven by Yuya Sakamoto recorded a time of 1 min. 56.623 in the Super Lap to become top qualifier in class for the first time. This was Sakamoto's first class pole position and also the first for the Lamborghini Gallardo in SUPER GT competition.
+Pole position winner comments
No. 32 EPSON NSX [GT500]
Loic Duval: "I feel great. This has been a tough season for us, but today the car's balance was good and everyone on the team worked hard. I feel that this pole position is the fruit of everyone's hard work over the past year. In the past I have made mistakes at the first corner here on the Fuji course, so I took it carefully over the first half in the Super Lap and then was able to run very well in the second half. I still have no idea how things are going to go in tomorrow's race. If it rain, it will be to our advantage. It may be a race full of surprises."
Yuki Nakayama: "Loic-san just clinched the Formula Nippon title the other day, so I thought he would do a good job for us today. While I was driving in the morning practice the rain started falling harder and there was trouble with the windshield wipers. Nonetheless, the machine balance was good and I was able to run at a fast pace. My job tomorrow will be to drive with no mistakes. We haven't yet decided who will be driving the first stint tomorrow, but I will just be building my concentration in preparation."
No. 88 triple a GALLARDO RG-3
Yuya Sakamoto: "We had a hard time deciding on what tires to use, but since our team is running two Gallardo machines we were able to compare data and make the best choice. I was sure that we could do well in either wet or dry conditions, so I was fairly confident throughout the qualifying. Still, I am very pleased with this Pole Position result. The No. 33 Porsche is also very fast in the rain and, to tell you the truth, I thought the pole would go to them. But as I was watching the action on the monitor, I saw Masami (Kageyama in No. 33) make a mistake and that convinced me we had a chance for the PP. And we actually got it (laughs)! I'm really happy. I have confidence that we can do well in the race even if the track is dry, unlike today. Masuda has set up the machine well for us, so all I have to do is concentrate on driving well."
Hideshi Matsuda: "I have been driving together with Sakamoto since last year and I know that he is very good at responding to changing conditions, so I didn't worry when the conditions got difficult today. For this race we have made some big changes in the suspension and the results of that have brought the machine balance together quite well. Tomorrow we just have to run like we did today, even if the track is dry. The team is working very well together too. All we have to do now is to keep this momentum going and reach for the next level."