Suzuka Super Formula: Kunimoto leads washed-out practice
Kondo Racing driver Yuji Kunimoto set the pace in Friday's opening practice session for this weekend's Suzuka title decider that was essentially written off by heavy rain.
Kunimoto's best time came towards the start of the one-hour session, which was delayed by 15 minutes owing to the late conclusion of the preceding WTCR practice session, the 2016 series champion posting a 1m55.296s in the treacherous conditions.
That was enough to beat Hiroaki Ishiura (Inging) by 0.261 seconds, while Kazuki Nakajima was third-fastest for TOM'S, 0.341s off the pace.
The rain intensified around 15 minutes into the session, which prompted a lengthy period of inactivity as all the drivers returned to the pits.
In the final 20 minutes, several drivers ventured out for sighting laps, and with 10 minutes to go the majority of the field were out on track, albeit mostly lapping over 5s off the pace.
No-one was able to improve in that time, leaving Kunimoto at the head of an all-Toyota top five, with title contenders Kenta Yamashita (Kondo) and Nick Cassidy (TOM'S) placing fourth and fifth behind the leading trio.
Best of the Honda runners was Dandelion Racing's Nirei Fukuzumi in sixth place.
Of the other title hopefuls, Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) was ninth-fastest, Naoki Yamamoto (Dandelion) was 12th and Alex Palou (Nakajima Racing) was well down in 19th, having completed only two laps all session and not at a representative pace.
At the opposing end of the spectrum was Red Bull-backed Team Mugen newcomer Juri Vips, who clocked 12 laps - having been one of the first to venture back out late in the session - on his way to the 17th-fastest time, just behind teammate Tomoki Nojiri.
Weather conditions are forecast to improve for the remainder of the weekend, with second practice set to take place early on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.
UPDATE: Due to limited track activity on Friday, the second practice session on Saturday has been extended by 20 minutes.
|1||Yuji Kunimoto||Kondo Racing||01'55.296|
|2||Hiroaki Ishiura||JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING||01'55.557||00.261|
|3||Kazuki Nakajima||Vantelin Team TOM'S||01'55.637||00.341|
|4||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||01'55.812||00.516|
|5||Nick Cassidy||Vantelin Team TOM'S||01'56.007||00.711|
|6||Nirei Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||01'56.011||00.715|
|7||Ryo Hirakawa||Team Impul||01'56.257||00.961|
|8||Sho Tsuboi||JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING||01'57.548||02.252|
|9||Kamui Kobayashi||carrozzeria Team KCMG||01'57.684||02.388|
|10||Yuhi Sekiguchi||Team Impul||01'57.941||02.645|
|11||Lucas Auer||B-MAX with Motopark||01'58.719||03.423|
|12||Naoki Yamamoto||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||01'59.488||04.192|
|13||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Real Racing||01'59.555||04.259|
|14||Yuichi Nakayama||UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans||02'00.459||05.163|
|15||Kazuya Oshima||UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans||02'01.156||05.860|
|16||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||02'01.366||06.070|
|17||Jüri Vips||Team Mugen||02'02.794||07.498|
|18||Harrison Newey||B-MAX with Motopark||02'05.236||09.940|
|19||Alex Palou||TCS Nakajima Racing||02'08.860||13.564|
|20||Tadasuke Makino||TCS Nakajima Racing||02'15.087||19.791|
|View full results|
Who will prevail in Super Formula's five-way decider?
Yamamoto admits F1 run detracted from SF/SGT efforts