The official qualifying for the SUPER GT in KYUSHU 300 km, Round 3 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the AUTOPOLIS circuit (lap = 4,674m) in Oita Pref. on May 20. In the GT500 class, the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT driven by Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa that had recorded the fastest times from the morning’s official practice won pole position. In the GT300 class the pole position went to the 2016 champion team, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC driven by Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita. These two cars win the right to start from the front position of the starting grid for their respective classes in the race on May 21.
Due to the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes that occurred just before the scheduled holding of last year’s race caused its cancelation, this was the first Autopolis SUPER GT round in two years. As evidence that they had long awaited the return of the SUPER GT to Kyushu, many fans turned out to watch this day’s qualifying. The official qualifying sessions to determine the starting grid for the race began at 1:30 in the afternoon. Under clear blue skies, the air temperature was 26℃ and the track surface temperature 41℃.
The GT500 Q1 session in which the eight cars qualifying for Q2 would be decided started at 2:00 in the afternoon. Calculating the time remaining to the checkered flag, many of the teams waited until just under eight minutes remained in the session before taking to the track to begin their trials. The car that would record the fastest lap time in this Q1 session of 1’34.333 was the same No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa) that had run the fastest times from the morning’s official practice. The second fastest time was recorded by the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (James Rossiter), while the third fastest was the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Hiroaki Ishiura). The fastest among the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 teams was the No. 46 S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo) in 5th position. This helped give the impression that the other two makers had closed the gap on the Lexus machines that had been so dominant in the first two rounds of the season.
After the Q2 session of the GT300, class had finished, it was time for the Q2 session of the GT500 class, which started at 2:45 in the afternoon. As in Q1, most of the teams didn’t begin their time attacks until about seven minutes remained in the session. As the teams steadily improved on their times, it was again as it had been in Q1 the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto) that recorded a spectacular time of 1’33.740. This brought not only a memorable first SUPER GT pole position for Yamamoto but also showed what good condition the Honda NSX-GT machine was in. Finishing 2nd in the qualifying was the No. 46 S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama). As in the previous round at Fuji, this gave the Nissan GT-R its second front row grid position of the season. Qualifying 3rd came the 2016 champions, the No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen).
From the GT300 class Q1 session, the superior cornering performance of the cars built around the Mother Chassis and the speed of the Mercedes AMG GT3 cars stood out. The fastest time in Q1 was recorded by one of the Mother Chassis cars, that of the 2016 GT300 champion team, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC the driven by Kenta Yamashita. And it was fastest again in Q2, driven this time by Takamitsu Matsui. This was the team’s first pole position of the season. Qualifying 2nd was the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT driven by Takuto Iguchi, a Kyushu native from Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, while 3rd place went to the No. 5 MACH SYAKEN MC86 GTNET (Fukuoka Pref. native Natsu Sakaguchi/Kiyoto Fujinami), making it a good day for teams with Kyushu ties.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT
“I am very happy that we got the pole position. The machine’s balance was very good from the time we started running today. I can’t remember how long it has been since we were able to run in such good condition, and that is strong evidence of just how good it has become. The team has come into this season with a new make-up, and I wanted to get a good result in order to show how well this team can work together and get results. So, I am glad that we have at least gotten the pole position.”
No.25 VivaC 86 MC
“I’m glad that we have gotten our first pole position of the season. Since there were some small mistakes out there today, we weren’t able to get the course record. But, even if it wasn’t for those mistakes, the existing course record is so fast that I don’t think we could have matched it. Still, the machine set-up today went well and I was able to feel very good during my attack runs.”
Source. Super GT