Sugo Super Formula: Nojiri makes it four poles in a row
Reigning Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri made it four poles in a row as he beat Sacha Fenestraz to the top spot in qualifying for this weekend's fifth round of the season at Sugo.
Mugen driver Nojiri led the way in Saturday morning practice, and although he was only third-fastest in his Q1 segment, he saved his best for last as he outpaced the competition by 0.357 seconds in the pole shootout.
It continues Mugen's perfect streak of poles in 2022, while also giving Nojiri an enhanced 10-point lead in the championship over Ryo Hirakawa, who struggled to a disappointing 16th place.
Claiming the remaining bonus points in second and third were Kondo Racing's Fenestraz and Dandelion Racing's Hiroki Otsu, both having briefly occupied the top spot before Nojiri's final flyer of 1m04.349s.
Fourth-fastest was TOM'S man Ritomo Miyata ahead of Toshiki Oyu, who posted his best grid position of the year for Nakajima Racing, and last year's Sugo winner Nirei Fukuzumi, giving Drago Corse by far its best grid slot of the season.
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Both drivers that set the pace in their respective Q1 groups couldn't replicate their pace in Q2.
Tadasuke Makino (Dandelion) was fastest in Q1-B, but ended up a disappointing ninth place in the pole shootout behind the second Kondo machine of Kenta Yamashita and Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG).
Likewise, Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima) raised hopes of a return to form when he went fastest in Q1-A, but ended up 12th and last in Q2, behind Nobuharu Matsushita (B-Max Racing) and Red Bull junior Ren Sato (Team Goh).
Returning to Japan fresh from winning last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours, Hirakawa was a surprise Q1 elimination, only managing the eighth-fastest time in his segment to line up 16th, one place ahead of teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi.
Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) likewise struggled, setting the 10th and slowest time, and will start from 20th.
The 53-lap Sugo race will begin on Sunday at 2.30pm local time (GMT +9).
|1||1||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||1'04.349|
|2||4||Sacha Fenestraz||Kondo Racing||1'04.706||0.357|
|3||6||Hiroki Otsu||Dandelion Racing||1'04.785||0.436|
|4||37||Ritomo Miyata||Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S||1'04.832||0.483|
|5||65||Toshiki Oyu||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'04.858||0.509|
|6||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||ThreeBond Drago CORSE||1'04.913||0.564|
|7||3||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||1'04.933||0.584|
|9||5||Tadasuke Makino||Dandelion Racing||1'05.160||0.811|
|10||50||Nobuharu Matsushita||B-Max Racing Team||1'05.248||0.899|
|11||53||Ren Sato||Team Goh||1'05.535||1.186|
|12||64||Naoki Yamamoto||TCS Nakajima Racing||1'05.835||1.486|
|View full results|
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