Fuji Super GT: Lexus locks out front row as Honda struggles

Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura claimed pole position for Super GT’s Fuji 500 km race, leading a Lexus 1-2 in qualifying.

Fuji Super GT: Lexus locks out front row as Honda struggles

Heavy morning showers and dense fog played havoc with the day’s schedule, with organisers scrapping the two-part qualifying in favour of a single 20-minute session for GT500 and GT300 respectively.

However, by the time qualifying got underway, the track was dry enough for slick tyres to be fitted on the cars.

Ronnie Quintarelli was the first driver to break the 1m30s barrier, lapping his factory NISMO GT-R in 1m28.526s to assume the top spot on the leaderboard.

Former Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen went almost instantly quicker in the SARD Lexus, before improving further still to 1m28.526s.

That time remained unbeaten till the final three minutes of the session, when Yuhi Sekiguchi clocked the Fuji Speedway in 1m28.229s in the #36 TOM’S Lexus.

Soon after, a flurry of fastest laps demoted Sekiguchi down the order, with Tachikawa eventually putting the Zent/Cerumo Lexus on pole with a time of 1m27.904s.

Felix Rosenqvist’s teammate Kazuya Oshima also set a late flyer to secure a front row spot, qualifying 0.170s behind Tachikawa.

Quintarelli, who shares the NISMO GT-R with Tsugio Matsuda, qualified third, while Sekiguchi and James Rossiter – who has replaced Kazuki Nakajima at TOM’S due to the Japanese driver’s clashing commitments in WEC – eventually wound up fourth.

Kovalainen also managed to make a marginal improvement late in the session, but it was only enough to put the Sard Lexus he shares with Sho Tsuboi in fifth position.

Daisuke Nakajima and Hideki Mutoh were Honda’s top qualifiers in sixth, the  Mugen pairing ending 0.620s behind the polesitters.

Katsumasa Chiyo and Satoshi Motoyama were next up in seventh in the NDP Nissan, while the eighth place went to the Impul Nissan of Jann Mardenborough and Daiki Sasaki.

Yuji Kunimoto and Kenta Yamashita were classified ninth in Bandoh Lexus, while the top was completed by defending champions Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy (#1 TOM’S Lexus).

Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto, who were carrying heavy ballast after a second-place finish in Okayama, could qualify no higher than 11th, but still managed to end as the second best Honda squad.

All 15 cars were separated by just 1.074s in a tight qualifying session.

Update: Mardenborough's fastest time was disallowed for exceeding track limits, demoting the Impul Nissan to 13th on the grid. As a result, several drivers moved up the order, with Button now due to the start the race from 10th.

BMW scores GT300 pole

ARTA BMW duo Sean Walkinshaw and Shinichi Takagi took the GT300 honours, upsetting the R&D Sport Subaru of Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi.

The factory-supported Subaru went on top with 2m30s to go with a time of 1m36.656s, only for Takagi to improve by a tenth to seal ARTA’s first GT300 pole since last year’s Fuji 300 km race.

Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou qualified third in the Leon Mercedes, another tenth adrift of the frontrow starters.

Qualifying results (GT500):

1  Yuji Tachikawa 
 Hiroaki Ishiura
Lexus 1'27.904

2  Kazuya Oshima 
 Felix Rosenqvist
Lexus 1'28.074

3  Tsugio Matsuda 
 Ronnie Quintarelli
4  James Rossiter 
 Yuhi Sekiguchi
5  Heikki Kovalainen 
 Sho Tsuboi
Lexus 1'28.471

6  Hideki Mutoh 
 Daisuke Nakajima
7  Satoshi Motoyama 
 Katsumasa Chiyo
8  Yuji Kunimoto 
 Kenta Yamashita
Lexus 1'28.638

9  Ryo Hirakawa 
 Nick Cassidy
Lexus 1'28.676

10  Naoki Yamamoto 
 Jenson Button
Honda 1'28.683

11  Bertrand Baguette 
 Kosuke Matsuura
Honda 1'28.808

12  Tomoki Nojiri 
 Takuya Izawa
Honda 1'28.838

13  Daiki Sasaki 
 Jann Mardenborough
14  Koudai Tsukakoshi 
 Takashi Kogure
Honda 1'28.907

15  Joao Paulo de Oliveira 
 Mitsunori Takaboshi
Nissan 1'28.978

Button stays on top as Super GT test ends

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