Tachikawa extends his record for GT poles by a single driver to 16

The qualifying for the OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE, Round 1 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT was held at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km) in Okayama Pref. on March 31. The GT500 class pole position went to the ZENT CERUMO SC430 driven by Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate. This gives the ZENT CERUMO SC430 a pole position start from the front row in the race on the April 1st.

GT 500 pole winners Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate
GT 500 pole winners Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

The qualifying was held in a three-session (Q1, Q2, Q3) “knock-out” format with the cars recording slowest best times in the first two sessions being knocked out of competition for the decisive Q3. In the GT500 qualifying, the initial 15 entries were reduced to seven cars for the final Q3.

In that final session, it only took famed SUPER GT “Pole Hunter” Yuji Tachikawa ten minutes on the track to record the session’s fastest time and win the pole position. With Q1 and Q2 having been run in intermittent rain that made for difficult course conditions, Tachikawa’s experience as a GT veteran paid off as he drove in sessions Q1 and Q3 and finally recorded a time of 1’22. 572 in Q3 close to the course record (1’22.404). No one was able to match this time, which gave Tachikawa’s team the pole position and enabled him to extend his own record for most SUPER GT pole positions by a single driver to 16.

In the GT300 class the GT300 the ENDLESS TAISAN 911 driven by Kyosuke Mineo and Naoki Yokomizo won the class pole position.

In Q3, Yokomizo set a new Okayama International Circuit course record with a time of 1’28.975. The old record of1 ’29.019 was set by Tetsuya Yamano in 2004. This was the first SUPER GT pole for Yokomizo.

No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 [GT500]

Yuji Tachikawa: “The track conditions were changing so rapidly that it was hard to know what was happening. But, in the end I was able to survive it all. I feel really relieved. In Q1, I ran with wet tires on the dry machine settings. Then, we changed to dry tires for the final runs and were finally able to get a good time. Despite the tough conditions in Q2, Hitate pushed hard and qualified us for Q3. In Q3, I was able to run with the settings we had worked out in the last testing event, so I could get a good time and win the pole.”

GT 300 pole winner Naoki Yokomizo celebrates
GT 300 pole winner Naoki Yokomizo celebrates

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 [GT300]

Naoki Yokomizo: “Things had been going well through the preseason testing sessions, but the track conditions were very difficult in today’ s qualifying. When the timing of my attack laps in Q1 didn’ t go well, we were in danger of not clearing the session. The second session (Q2) run by Mineo-san was the most difficult of today’s three sessions, so I was even more nervous watching that than I was in the two sessions I drove. We have a very good team together this year and of course we will be going for the win, so I intend to drive carefully and get a good result.”