Andre Lotterer and Jann Mardenborough shared the pole positions for the 2017 Super Formula season’s final two races in a truncated qualifying session at Suzuka.
Damp weather conditions caught out several drivers in qualifying, including championship protagonist Pierre Gasly, who spun at Turn 1 with just over a minute left in Q1.
The Red Bull junior’s off-track excursion brought out the fourth red flag of the session and eventually a decision was made not to resume qualifying.
This gave TOM'S driver Lotterer his first pole of the season for Race 1, the German having been fastest in Q1 with a time of 1m54.395s.
Dandelion’s Tomoki Nojiri qualified second, 0.059s adrift of the Porsche WEC ace, while Kazuki Nakajima rounded off a strong day for TOM’S by setting the third fastest time.
Championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura crucially qualified in fourth place, ahead of Daisuke Nakajima and Yuji Kunimoto.
Mardenborough was next up in seventh while Gasly will start the season’s penultimate race in eighth despite his spin.
Kamui Kobayashi, who also brought out a red flag after briefly making contact with the barriers at turn 1, and Takuya Izawa completed the top 10.
Mardenborough takes Race 2 pole
With Q2 and Q3 cancelled, the order for Race 2 was determined by second-fastest times in Q1.
Mardenborough was one of the few drivers to get two clean flying laps in qualifying, the Nissan GT Academy winner claiming an unlikely pole for Race 2.
Nojiri’s second-fastest time was only two tenths slower than the Englishman, allowing the Dandelion driver to take a double front-row start for the season finale.
The Nakajima brothers will start fourth and fifth, with Daisuke qualifying ahead of Kazuki.
Crucially for the championship battle, Gasly’s second-fastest time was good enough for sixth, three positions ahead of points leader Ishiura.
The two title rivals will be separated on the grid by defending champion Yuji Kunimoto and former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan, while Yuhi Sekiguchi completed the top 10.
Felix Rosenqvist, who had an outside chance of winning the title, was the first to crash in qualifying and will start both races from the back of the grid.