Tomoki Nojiri set a scorching lap to put his ARTA team on pole as Honda locked out the first three places on the grid at the twisty Sugo circuit. The 27-year old’s time was a 1:10.915, which was over half a second quicker than Naoki Yamamoto in the Raybrig Honda.
Qualifying 1 was held under drying conditions and Honda quickly showed their prowess at the circuit where Honda are traditionally very competitive. 4 of the 5 NSXs made it through to Q2, with the Epson NSX being the sole exception. Takashi Kobayashi was, just like his teammate, fastest. However, yhe wasn’t followed by a Honda. The WedsSport Lexus finally showed some pace under Yuhi Sekiguchi, who set a time within two tenths of Kobayashi. The Nissans looked off the pace, although Daiki Sasaki did manage to get his cat through to Q2.
Many of the Lexus championship protagonists looked off the pace. The championship leading KeePer TOM’s car could only muster 11th, and the Zent Cerumo and au TOM’s Lexi, both cars which have won races this season, were even further back in 12th and 13th and respectively.
Furthermore, the two Bridgestone-shod Lexi which did get through to Q2 made no inroads, finishing 7th and 8th. in GT500 this was a session in which the underdogs prevailed.
GT300 was slightly less surprising, but still very close nonetheless. Takamitsu Matsui managed to qualify his VivaC 86 on pole despite carrying 58 kilograms of success ballast, followed one tenth behind by Yukhi Nakayama. in the other Toyota 86 run by UpGarage Bandoh. It is also worth mentioning the Syntium Lexus which will start 3rd thanks to a quick lap from Hiroki Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto and Akira Lida have effectively been the equivalent of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso driving for Mclaren-Honda. They were two experienced and competitive drivers in Super GT, who since 2014 had been driving a thoroughly uncompetitive GT300 Lexus. They became perennial backmarkers, such to the extent that they weren’t allowed to compete in races with limited grid capacity due to the seeding system. However, a 9th place finish at Fuji meant they were able to compete at Sugo and they appear to have duly delivered.
Sugo tends to be an exciting race and it should again be this year. It will be live from Nismo TV tomorrow morning with lights out at 14:30 local time, which is 06:30 BST.