The official qualifying for the OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE, Round 1 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series was held at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km) in Okayama Prefecture on April 8. In the qualifying for the premier GT500 class that saw the Red Flag come out twice, the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT driven by Takashi Kobayashi and Tomoki Nojiri won pole position (No. 1 qualifier). In the equally confused GT300 class session, last year’s Okayama round winners, the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG driven by Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou, won the class pole. With this result, these two cars will start from front position on their respective class starting grids in the final race on April 9.
The skies were cloudy from the morning on this day at Okayama International Circuit. By noon some patches of blue were beginning to show between the clouds, but by the start of the qualifying at 2:45 in the afternoon there was a fine mist of rain falling It wasn’t enough to wet the track rapidly, however, so all of the cars started out on dry-condition slick tires.
In the GT500 class Q1 session, all of the drivers warmed up their tires and proceeded to commencing running for their qualifying laps. Among them it was Hiroaki Ishiura in the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 who warmed up his tires well and ran the fastest time. This qualified his team for Q2 in top position.
As in Q1, Q2 saw all the cars warm up their tires and prepare to begin their qualifying laps with about two minutes left in the session, but just at that time, the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 driven by Kazuki Nakajima ran off the track at the Mike Knight Corner and crashed into the carrier at the last turn. This brought out the Red Flag to stop the session. The car with the top time at this point was the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Takashi Kobayashi) at 1′ 20.604. There were other cars that finished timed laps just before the Red Flag, but according to the regulation, these times were disqualified. After the crashed car No. 36 was cleared from the track, the Q2 session resumed with three minutes remaining. However, immediately after that the No. 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Daisuke Nakajima) came to a stop at the Attwood Curve. This brought out the Red Flag again, bringing the Q2 session to an end before many of the machines could get in a timed lap.
This gave the pole position to the No .8 ARTA NSX-GT. In this season’s GT500 class where all the machines have a new specification, it is the Honda NSX that has won the first pole position of the season. Also, for Kobayashi it is his second pole position and his first since round six at Suzuka in his debut year in the GT500 class, 2010.
The Q2 session of the GT300 class also saw the session stopped once, which resulted in a first class pole for the No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG GT300 (Naoya Gamou) after having recorded a fastest time of 1’25.044 before the Red Flag. Car No. 65 also won last year’s race at Okayama and will be going for a second consecutive win. Also, since the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG qualified in second position, it will be joining car No. 65 on the front line of the starting grid for tomorrow’s race to give the Mercedes Benz AMG GT3 the top two spots.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT
“Well, we got lucky today (embarrassed smile). We were able to get pole position because Nojiri did a great job in Q1 to get us qualified for Q2. Certainly, we were lucky in part, but there is no denying that we were able to get pole because Honda and Bridgestone and the team worked hard to get the car in such good condition. So, tomorrow we will of course be going for nothing but the win.”
No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG
“I am happy that we have won our first pole position, but at the same time I am honestly very relieved. During the off-season, we changed to Bridgestone tires. So the big focus of our off-season was working to get the car in tune with the Bridgestone tires. Tomorrow we will do our best to get the win [like last year].”
Source. Super GT