For the second year in a row, Kenta Yamashita qualified on pole position for the final round of the Autobacs Super GT Series at Fuji Speedway. The 26-year-old broke his own course record set last November to clinch his third career pole position, placing himself and teammate Kazuya Oshima first in their # 14 Eneos X Prime Toyota GR Supra.
Yamashita took the fastest time with a lap of 1’25.764 as the checkered flag fell, depriving Naoki Yamamoto’s # 1 Stanley Honda NSX-GT of its second pole of the season. This is the first pole for ROOKIE Racing (TGR Team Eneos ROOKIE), which started last season in GT500.
Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino, who led Q1 with a provisional lap record of 1’26,000, will start second for tomorrow’s race. Yamamoto can claim his third GT500 Drivers’ Championship with a victory in the 66 laps of tomorrow’s Fuji GT 300km race.
The No. 36 GR Supra in TOM (Yuhi Sekiguchi / Sho Tsuboi) qualified fourth, and the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri / Nirei Fukuzumi) qualified sixth. Two of the six GT500 championship contenders failed to advance to Q2, while the # 17 Astemo NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi / Bertrand Baguette) was tenth, and the # 12 Calsonic Impul GT-R (Kazuki Hiramine / Nobuharu Matsushita) was 14th. Only one Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 reached Q2 in the final qualifying session for the R35 GT-R.
Nojiri and Fukuzumi can also win the championship by winning the race, which would make Nojiri the fifth “Double Champion” of the two biggest Japanese racing series. But they need a minimum score of sixth or better. Tsukakoshi and Baguette need a minimum third place to win the title, and the # 36, # 12 and # 14 teams need to win the race to have any championship hope.
So even with the bonus point for pole position, Oshima and Yamashita also have to win the race – with # 1 Stanley NSX-GT finishing in points (11th or less), ARTA NSX-GT sixth or less, and the Astemo NSX-GT fourth or less.
Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi’s # 61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport took a big step towards the GT300 championship, as Yamauchi scored his fourth pole of the season and that of the new ZC8 BRZ. This is Yamauchi’s eighth career pole, doubling his career tally before this season.
A phenomenal final sector helped Yamauchi clinch pole at the checkered flag, as he also set a new GT300 class course record with a 1’34.395. Former course record holder Kohta Kawaai finished second in the # 52 Toyota GR Supra Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave (with Hiroki Yoshida).
Iguchi and Yamauchi can win the first titles for themselves, Subaru and R&D Sport by finishing in the top two in tomorrow’s race.
Takanoko-no-yu GR Supra # 244 (Atsushi Miyake / Yuui Tsutsumi) was the only one of five weekend championship contenders to advance to Q2. They qualified ninth and now must win the race to have any chance of winning the title.
The # 56 Realize / Nissan Automobile Technical College GT-R (Kiyoto Fujinami / João Paulo de Oliveira) and the # 55 ARTA Honda NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi / Ren Sato) both missed the cut in their respective Q1 groups; the # 55 ARTA NSX GT3 was further hampered by a lack of training time due to mechanical issues. The cup was also missing the # 11 Gainer TanaX GT-R (Katsuyuki Hiranaka / Hironobu Yasuda), who is now mathematically eliminated from the competition.
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