Sugo Super Formula: Sekiguchi scores first pole since 2018

Impul Toyota driver Yuhi Sekiguchi scored his first Super Formula pole in almost three years in wet conditions at Sugo, while points leader Tomoki Nojiri could only manage 10th.

Sekiguchi did not appear to be among the favourites for pole at a track where he has won twice in Super Formula through free practice and the opening two segments of qualifying.

But after making it through in fourth in his Q1 group, and third in Q2 - also split into two groups for this weekend only - Sekiguchi saved the best for last as he posted two laps good enough for pole.

His best effort of 1m19.231s put him just 0.043s clear of Tadasuke Makino in the Honda-powered Dandelion Racing car, giving him his fifth career pole and a first since Okayama in 2018.

Inging rookie Sena Sakaguchi continued his impressive recent form by qualifying third, only 0.214s off the pace, ahead of fellow first-year driver Ritomo Miyata (TOM'S) and practice pacesetter Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion).

Autopolis winner Giuliano Alesi (TOM'S) couldn't quite replicate his wet-weather form from the previous round, qualifying in sixth, a little over a second off Sekiguchi's pace.

Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing) and Hiroki Otsu (Mugen) completed the Q2 order.

In the second Mugen car, points leader Nojiri dropped out in a dramatic second segment of qualifying and will only line up 10th on the grid on Sunday, his worst starting position of the season so far.

Nojiri had been set to advance when Sho Tsuboi - fastest up to that point - and Nobuharu Matsushita went off almost simultaneously at Turn 2 and Horseback Corner respectively, bringing out the red flags.

With Tsuboi and Matsushita both losing their laptimes as a result, Nojiri was a provisional fourth, but the session was resumed after that stoppage, allowing Sekiguchi to sneak ahead and into Q3.

It means Nojiri joins Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) on the fifth row of the grid.

Matsushita (B-Max Racing) and Tsuboi (Inging) were demoted to 13th and 14th places behind KCMG car of Kazuto Kotaka and reigning champion Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima Racing), who was slowest in his Q2 group.

Ryo Hirakawa's replacement at Impul, Nissan SUPER GT regular Mitsunori Takaboshi, narrowly missed out on escaping Q1 and will make his second Super Formula start from 15th on the grid.

He is joined on row eight by Tatiana Calderon's stand-in Koudai Tsukakoshi (Drago Corse).

Q3 results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 19 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul 1'19.231  
2 6 Japan Tadasuke Makino DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'19.274 0.043
3 39 Japan Sena Sakaguchi P.MU/CERUMO・INGING 1'19.445 0.214
4 37 Japan Ritomo Miyata Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1'19.799 0.568
5 5 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 1'19.828 0.597
6 36 France Giuliano Alesi Kuo VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S 1'20.371 1.140
7 64 Japan Toshiki Oyu TCS Nakajima Racing 1'20.485 1.254
8 15 Japan Hiroki Otsu Red Bull MUGEN Team Goh 1'21.232 2.001
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