Fuji Super Formula: Sasahara takes surprise first pole

Ukyo Sasahara scored a surprise first Super Formula pole in qualifying for Saturday's opening round of the season at Fuji Speedway, beating Red Bull junior Ren Sato to the top spot.

Fuji Super Formula: Sasahara takes surprise first pole
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Sasahara, whose deal to join Mugen in a second car was only announced days before the start of pre-season testing, went quickest of all in the 12-car Q2 pole shootout with a best time of 1m21.404s.

That was enough to beat Team Goh rookie Sato, who had topped his Q1 segment, by 0.264s.

Team Impul's Ryo Hirakawa qualified best of the Toyota runners in third behind an all-Honda front row ahead of practice pacesetter Ritomo Miyata (TOM'S) and Sacha Fenestraz (Kondo Racing), who had likewise topped his Q1 group but went marginally slower in Q2.

Reigning champion Tomoki Nojiri was only sixth in the second Mugen car, 0.525s off the pace of teammate Sasahara.

Tadasuke Makino (Dandelion), Yuhi Sekiguchi (Impul), Giuliano Alesi (TOM'S) and Hiroki Otsu (Dandelion) made up the rest of the top 10.

Sho Tsuboi, who had been one of the favourites based on his pre-season test form, was only 10th-fastest of the 12 Q2 runners and had his best time erased for exceeding track limits.

That dropped the Inging driver to 12th on the grid behind Otsu and rookie Atsushi Miyake (Goh).

Kenta Yamashita (Kondo) was the surprise elimination of Q1, managing only the eighth-best time to put himself 15th on the grid, one place behind B-Max Racing's Nobuharu Matsushita.

Naoki Yamamoto's struggles with Nakajima Racing continued as he qualified down in 17th with the second-slowest time in his Q1 group, but his teammate Toshiki Oyu fared even worse as he ended up 21st and last.

Saturday's 41-lap race begins at 2.30pm local time (GMT +9).

Fuji Super Formula - Q2 results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 15 Japan Ukyo Sasahara Team Mugen 1'21.404  
2 53 Ren Sato Team Goh 1'21.668 0.264
3 20 Japan Ryo Hirakawa Team Impul 1'21.708 0.304
4 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1'21.727 0.323
5 4 France Sacha Fenestraz Kondo Racing 1'21.774 0.370
6 1 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 1'21.929 0.525
7 5 Japan Tadasuke Makino Japan Dandelion Racing 1'21.974 0.570
8 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 1'22.107 0.703
9 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1'22.120 0.716
10 38 Japan Sho Tsuboi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1'22.140 0.736
11 6 Japan Hiroki Otsu Japan Dandelion Racing 1'22.158 0.754
12 55 Atsushi Miyake Team Goh 1'22.210 0.806

Fuji Super Formula: Miyata leads Makino in Friday practice

Fuji Super Formula: Hirakawa outduels Nojiri for victory